Scientists model Saturn’s interior

By | May 19, 2021

New Johns Hopkins University simulations provide an interesting look into Saturn’s interior, suggesting that a thick layer of helium precipitation affects the planet’s magnetic field.

The models, published this week in AGU Advance, also indicate that Saturn’s interior may have higher temperatures in the equatorial region, with lower temperatures at high latitudes on top of the helium precipitation layer.

The internal structures of large gaseous planets are extremely difficult to study, and the findings advance the effort to map Saturn’s hidden regions.

Johns Hopkins co-author Sabine Stanley said, “By studying how Saturn formed and evolved over time, we learn a lot about the formation of other planets similar to Saturn within our solar system as well as beyond. can learn.” Planetary Physicist.

Saturn is the most different of the planets in our solar system because its magnetic field appears to be almost perfectly symmetrical around the rotation axis. Detailed measurements of the magnetic field derived from the final orbits of NASA’s Cassini mission provide an opportunity to better understand the deep interior of the planet where the magnetic field originates, lead author Chi Yan, a Johns Hopkins Ph.D. Candidate.

Feeding the data collected by the Cassini mission into powerful computer simulations used to study weather and climate, Yan and Stanley discovered that dynamo — the electromagnetic conversion mechanism — responsible for Saturn’s magnetic field Which elements are necessary to produce.

“One thing we discovered was how sensitive the model was to very specific things like temperature,” said Stanley, also a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor at Johns Hopkins in the Space Exploration Sector of the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and Applied Physics Lab Huh. . “And that means we have a really interesting investigation of Saturn’s deep interior up to 20,000 kilometers down. It’s a type of X-ray vision.”

Surprisingly, Yan and Stanley’s simulations suggest that a slight degree of non-axiality may actually exist near Saturn’s northern and southern poles.

Stanley said, “Even though the observations we have from Saturn appear to be perfectly symmetrical, in our computer simulations we can fully interrogate the field.”

Direct observation at the poles will be necessary to confirm this, but the discovery may have implications for understanding another problem that has puzzled scientists for decades: how to measure Saturn’s rotation rate, or, in other words, a The length of the day on the planet.

The background

Saturn is the most isolated in the solar system because its magnetic field is almost perfectly symmetrical around its rotation axis. NASA’s Cassini mission helped scientists understand the deep interior of the planet where the magnetic field originates.

About simulation

Scientists have created two powerful computer simulations of NASA’s magnetic field based on Cassini mission data. The simulation will help scientists measure Saturn’s rotation rate. This is one of the many problems that have been bothering (hard) scientists for decades.

Interior of saturn

The center of Saturn is a dense core of metals such as iron and nickel. This dense core is surrounded by rocky material. In addition it is covered with liquid metal hydrogen inside a layer of liquid hydrogen. Its core is almost similar to Jupiter’s core but is much smaller.


Cassini is a joint space mission of the European Space Agency, NASA and the Italian Space Agency. This was called the Cassini-Huygens mission. The Cassini space probe entered Saturn’s orbit and landed on the European Space Agency’s Huygens Titan (Saturn’s largest moon). Cassini was the first space probe to enter Saturn’s orbit and the fourth space probe to travel to Saturn.

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