How long is Saturns day Search reveals an even deeper mystery

first_img For decades, researchers have puzzled over a seemingly simple mystery: the length of a day on Saturn. Unlike the rocky planets of the inner solar system, whose rotations are measured by simply tracking objects on their spinning surfaces, the fixed interiors of planets like Jupiter and Saturn are veiled by ever-shifting flows of gas.To get around this problem, scientists have turned to distinctive radio waves created by each planet’s magnetic field. On Jupiter, Uranus, and Neptune, the axis of the magnetic field is offset against the planet’s rotation; as the two axes wobble around each other, a predictable pattern of radio waves is generated, pegged to the start of each day.On Saturn, however, the two axes are almost perfectly aligned, leading to inconclusive results. In the early 1980s, the Voyager spacecraft estimated Saturn’s day at 10 hours, 39 minutes; when the Cassini spacecraft arrived more than a decade ago, its estimate was 10 hours, 45 minutes—and the number kept changing. Email Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe Last year, as Cassini made its grand finale, diving between Saturn and its rings (and ultimately vaporizing into the planet), researchers hoped new measures of the planet’s magnetic field might finally resolve the mystery. Such a close-up view, they hoped, would allow them to detangle signals that stemmed from the planet’s atmosphere versus those generated by its dense interior layer of metallic hydrogen, thought to be the source of its magnetic field.But Saturn, it seems, had other plans. In new work published today in Science, the Cassini team disclosed the finest measures yet of Saturn’s magnetic field, revealing its two axes are offset by less than a measly 0.0095°, with the exact offset still unknown. The extreme alignment has, so far, not allowed a finer measure of the planet’s day. But it also points toward a deeper mystery: Planetary dynamos, which generate magnetic fields, typically require an offset between these two axes to continue. Given this nearly perfect symmetry, then, how does Saturn have a magnetic field at all? By Paul VoosenOct. 4, 2018 , 2:00 PMcenter_img Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! 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