In his symphonic suite The Planets, Gustav Holst titled the 5th movement “Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age”. In human terms, a few thousand years would be pretty old, but secular scientists claim the planet is much older—about 4.5 billion years. Cassini, the spacecraft that has been orbiting Saturn since 2004, is making that age hard to believe. Independent lines of evidence argue for a much younger age.
Cassini-Huygens1 is the most advanced outer-planet spacecraft ever launched. In the 14 years I worked on the mission, I had opportunity to hear firsthand the struggles the world’s leading planetary scientists were having trying to keep Saturn old. I heard the predictions before launch, and I monitored the realities as torrents of data came in from Saturn, its moons and rings. Here is a short list of phenomena that put strong upper limits on the age of the Saturn system.
Enceladus. As reported in the June 2009 issue of this magazine, Enceladus emerged in 2005 as a serious challenge to old-age claims. This little moon, about the diameter of Arizona, was erupting water ice, dust and gas out of its south pole in powerful geysers. In March 2011, the problem got more and more difficult for long-agers: the heat emitted from Enceladus was measured at 15.8 gigawatts—ten times higher than earlier estimates.2 Papers in 2007 and 2008 admitted there is no known combination of factors that can keep this activity going for billions of years.3 The eruptions on Enceladus are indeed fountains of youth.
Main Rings. Saturn’s rings are not the placid, smooth raceways they appear to be. They are dynamic! The rings are constantly being bombarded by the solar wind, sunlight pressure, gas drag, internal collisions and micrometeorites. Scientists have even heard ‘ring tones’ in radio frequencies coming from meteorite impacts,4 and the visible ‘spokes’ may be their signatures. Yet the ice is remarkably clean compared to the predicted contamination from billions of years of micrometeorite pollution.5 And scientists recently found the trail of a billion-ton comet that must have hit the rings in the 1980s.6 How rare was that?….
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