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A Recent Impact Origin of Saturn’s Rings and Mid-sized Moons

Teodoro, L. F. A.; Kegerreis, J. A.; Estrada, P. R.; Ćuk, M.; Eke, V. R.; Cuzzi, J. N.; Massey, R. J.; Sandnes, T. D.

A Recent Impact Origin of Saturn’s Rings and Mid-sized Moons Thumbnail


L. F. A. Teodoro

P. R. Estrada

M. Ćuk

J. N. Cuzzi

T. D. Sandnes


We simulate the collision of precursor icy moons analogous to Dione and Rhea as a possible origin for Saturn's remarkably young rings. Such an event could have been triggered a few hundred million years ago by resonant instabilities in a previous satellite system. Using high-resolution smoothed particle hydrodynamics simulations, we find that this kind of impact can produce a wide distribution of massive objects and scatter material throughout the system. This includes the direct placement of pure-ice ejecta onto orbits that enter Saturn's Roche limit, which could form or rejuvenate rings. In addition, fragments and debris of rock and ice totaling more than the mass of Enceladus can be placed onto highly eccentric orbits that would intersect with any precursor moons orbiting in the vicinity of Mimas, Enceladus, or Tethys. This could prompt further disruption and facilitate a collisional cascade to distribute more debris for potential ring formation, the re-formation of the present-day moons, and evolution into an eventual cratering population of planetocentric impactors.


Teodoro, L. F. A., Kegerreis, J. A., Estrada, P. R., Ćuk, M., Eke, V. R., Cuzzi, J. N., …Sandnes, T. D. (2023). A Recent Impact Origin of Saturn’s Rings and Mid-sized Moons. Astrophysical Journal, 955(2), Article 137.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Aug 26, 2023
Online Publication Date Sep 27, 2023
Publication Date Sep 27, 2023
Deposit Date Feb 26, 2024
Publicly Available Date Feb 26, 2024
Journal The Astrophysical Journal
Print ISSN 0004-637X
Electronic ISSN 1538-4357
Publisher American Astronomical Society
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 955
Issue 2
Article Number 137
Keywords Space and Planetary Science; Astronomy and Astrophysics
Public URL


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