A new analysis of data from the orbiting Cassini spacecraft suggests that although the rings and the surfaces of the moons are colored by more recent "pollution" from dust and cosmic impacts, these bodies date back more than 4 billion years.
The coloring is generally only skin-deep, and a closer examination of the rings and moons shows their true origin was around the time the planetary bodies in our solar system began to form out of the protoplanetary nebula, the cloud of material still orbiting the sun after its ignition as a star, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., reported Tuesday.
"Studying the Saturnian system helps us understand the chemical and physical evolution of our entire solar system," Gianrico Filacchione, a Cassini participating scientist at Italy's National Institute for Astrophysics said, "We know now that understanding this evolution requires not just studying a single moon or ring, but piecing together the relationships intertwining these bodies."
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