Saturn's iconic rings were formed about 4.4 billion years ago said the researchers at the University of Colorado. This was announced at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union on 3 January 2014.
The new study was conducted using data gathered by the NASA’s Saturn-orbiting Cassini spacecraft.
Saturn’s main ring system is huge but razor-thin, measuring about 280000 kilometres across but just 33 feet or so in the vertical direction.
The rings are composed primarily of water ice, but they contain small amounts of rocky material contributed by micrometeoroid bombardment.
The University of Colorado researchers used Cassini’s Cosmic Dust Analyser instrument to measure how frequently such tiny particles cruise through the Saturn system.
The researchers were able to reconstruct the orbits of many of these particles, finding that the lion's share come from the Kuiper Belt, the ring of icy bodies beyond Neptune's orbit.
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When: 3 January 2014
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