Music in outer space

When people think of Saturn, the most predominant thought would be its icy rings surrounding it. They are considered to be aesthetically marvelous by many. However, these rings that Saturn has aren’t just simply beautiful. Some of them make sounds. The planet’s inside, veiled with hydrogen gas, oscillates. This causes a shift to the gravitational field of Saturn itself. This pulls Saturn’s so-called “C” ring and makes them shake. This creates spiral waves, which can reveal some characteristics of the inner parts of saturn. 

The actual logistics of it is quite simple; the different sounds that show up on the C ring are analyzed by scientists, and they can identify how the inside of mars looks accordingly. Using data from the Cassani Mission that studied Saturn, scientists have listened to and deconstructed the music from Saturn into different symphonies. Now, two researchers from the California Institute of Technology — Christopher Mankovich, a planetary scientist, and Jim Fuller, a theoretical astrophysicist — have decoded enough of this music to figure out some information about Saturn’s most undiscovered parts; its core.

According to them , the core is huge: It makes up 60 percent of the planet’s radius and is 55 times the mass of Earth. Unlike the ordered solid ball of metallic, rocky or icy material found within other planets, Saturn’s core is a turmoil of assorted rocks and ices floating with a fluid metallic form of hydrogen. This discovery is so significant because Saturn is made out of gas. Planets that we know of their inner structures are solid, and are measured through seismic waves. Saturn would be the first planet that mankind has learned about its inner structures without using seismic waves. 

This technique that the scientists used, using the sounds to figure out the structure, is called known as “kronoseismology”: “kronos” being the Greek word for Saturn, and “seismo” pertaining to shakes. Despite the technique’s success, scientists still don’t know what is causing the core to vibrate and create those spiral waves in the C ring. Earth resonates when it is shaken by powerful tectonic temblors, yet Saturn is made out of gas. It must be the next mission for scientists to figure this out.


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