Scientific news | Study: Elliptical craters shed light on age of Saturn’s moons | LastLY

Washington [US], Jun 25 (ANI): A new study describes how unique populations of craters on two of Saturn’s moons could help indicate the age of satellites and the conditions of their formation. Using data from NASA’s Cassini mission, researchers studied elliptical craters on Saturn’s moons Tethys and Dione for this study.

“Our work aims to answer the larger question of how old these moons are. To answer this question, my colleagues and I mapped elliptical craters on the surface of these moons to determine their size, direction and direction. location on the moon,” Ferguson said. .

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Circular craters are very common and can be formed from a wide range of impact conditions. However, elliptical craters are rarer and form from slow, shallow impacts, making them particularly useful in determining the age of an object as the shape and orientation also indicate the trajectory of their impactor. .

“By measuring the direction of these craters, we can get an idea of ​​what the impactors that created these craters looked like in a dynamic sense and from what direction they might have hit the surface,” she said.

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At first, Ferguson didn’t expect to find a pattern among the directions of the elliptical craters, but she eventually noticed a pattern along the equator of Dione, one of Saturn’s smaller moons. There, the elliptical craters were mostly oriented in an east/west pattern, while the directions were more random near the moon’s poles.

“We initially interpreted this pattern to be representative of two distinct populations of impactors creating these craters,” she said. “One group was responsible for creating the elliptical craters at the equator, while another, less concentrated population may be more representative of the regular background population of impactors around Saturn.”

Ferguson also mapped elliptical craters on Tethys, Saturn’s fifth-largest moon, and found that a similar size-frequency distribution of craters is unusual for objects orbiting the Sun, but oddly matches population estimates. of impactors which appears to be present on Neptune’s moon, Triton. . Because this population is thought to be planetocentric or drawn to the ice giant’s massive gravity, Ferguson’s results underscore the importance of considering planetocentric impactors when considering the age of objects in the Saturnian system.

“It was really amazing to see these models,” she said.

Ferguson thinks the equatorial craters could have formed from independent disks of debris orbiting each moon or potentially from a single disk that affected both moons.

“Using Triton as a guide, Tethys could reasonably be billions of years old. This age estimate depends on how much material was available to impact the surface and when it was available,” Ferguson said. “To be certain, of course, we will need more data, but this research tells us a lot. It can give us an idea of ​​the conditions of formation of these moons. Was it a completely chaotic system with materials hitting these satellites all over the place, or was there a clean and tidy system?”

Ferguson hopes to eventually compare his data from the Saturnian moons to that of Uranus, another ice giant. Although the current data is inconclusive, one of the flagship missions recommended by the Planetary Science Decadal Survey, which was published in April, is a mission to Uranus and its moons.

“This is the first step toward a new perspective on the cratering history of these moons and their origin and evolution,” Ferguson said. (ANI)

(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from syndicated newsfeed, LatestLY staff may not have edited or edited the body of the content)

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