The planet Saturn was between the sun and the Cassini spacecraft – sheltering the craft from the sun’s blinding glare – when Cassini acquired this image. Cassini orbited Saturn from 2004 to 2017.
By Vahe Peroomian, University of Southern California – Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences
Many dream of what they would do had they a time machine. Some would travel 100 million years back in time, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. Not many, though, would think of taking a telescope with them, and if, having done so, observe Saturn and its rings.
Whether our time-traveling astronomer would be able to observe Saturn’s rings is debatable. Have the rings, in some shape or form, existed since the beginnings of the solar system, 4.6 billion years ago, or are they a more recent addition? Had the rings even formed when the Chicxulub asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs?
I am a space scientist with a passion for teaching physics and astronomy, and Saturn’s rings have always fascinated me as they tell the story of how the eyes of humanity were opened to the wonders of our solar system and the cosmos.
Our view of Saturn evolves
When Galileo first observed ...