Instead, the heart of the impressive gas giant is “soup-like”.
The researchers write this in the journal natural astronomy. They are based on the “waves” in the beautiful ring system that can be found around Saturn.
Just as earthquakes can move large parts of our planet, tremors in the heart of Saturn also cause the gas giant to move. This, in turn, causes wave motions in the rings around Saturn. Scientists have now studied the wave motions recorded by the Cassini spacecraft to get a better picture of Saturn’s interior.
“We used Saturn’s rings as a massive seismograph to measure vibrations in the planet,” said study researcher Jim Fuller. It’s the first time we’ve been able to detect the structure of a gas giant in this way. And the results are absolutely amazing.”
Heart full of soup
Everything indicates that Saturn does not have a rocky core, but the heart of a gas giant is very similar to a soup, made up of ice, rocks and liquid minerals. This “soup” is a bit more structured than the average soup here on Earth. “Hydrogen and helium gas in the planet mixes as you travel to the center of the planet, gradually mixing with more and more ice and rocks,” researcher Christopher Mankovitch explains.
It also appears that Saturn’s core is larger than expected; It makes up about 60 percent of the planet’s diameter. The core is about 55 times heavier than Earth, with ice and rocks occupying 17 Earth masses and the remaining mass being accounted for by hydrogen and helium.
The results are in line with measurements from the Juno spacecraft, which is currently orbiting the gas giant Jupiter. Measurements indicate that this gas giant also has a soup-like core. At the same time, the research also raises new questions, for example about the origin of the gas giants. It was believed that these planets initially developed a rocky core and then attracted large amounts of gas. But if cores really look like this new research suggests, it would appear that the gas giants captured the gases very early in their evolution.