Graduate student could determine exact length of a day on Saturn finally

After more than 13 years at Saturn, and with its fate sealed, NASA's Cassini spacecraft bid farewell to the Saturnian system by firing the shutters of its wide-angle camera and capturing this last, full mosaic of Saturn and its rings two days before the s
NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Space experts all across the globe have long been trying to figure out the exact length of a day in Saturn, the ringed planet. In usual cases, determining the length of a day in planets is very easy, and all scientists should do pick a landmark and wait for it to reach the exact same point twice in its rotation.

However, determining the length of a day in Saturn has been considered extremely difficult, especially due to its thick gassy atmosphere. Due to the presence of this thick atmosphere, scientists often found it hard to pick a visible landmark to track. Apart from the atmospheric thickness, Saturn's magnetic field also hid the speed at which the planet is spinning.

However, after analyzing using data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft, Christopher Mankovich, a graduate student at UC Santa Cruz has apparently figured out the length of a day in Saturn. In order to determine the exact length, Mankovich closely analyzed the wave patterns within the rings, and speculated that the waves are usually caused when it reaches a particular location on the planet. Thus he easily figured out the landmark which is a pre-requisite to understand the length, and thus he solved this billion dollar question forever.

"Particles throughout the rings can't help but feel these oscillations in the gravity field. At specific locations in the rings these oscillations catch ring particles at just the right time in their orbits to gradually build up energy, and that energy gets carried away as an observable wave," said Mankovich in a recently issued statement.

Calculations made by Mankovich revealed that a day on Saturn lasts 10 hours, 33 minutes and 38 seconds. Interestingly, decades back, using the magnetic field data from Voyager, scientists have speculated that a day in Saturn lasts 10 hours, 39 minutes and 23 seconds.

Related topics : Nasa