Saturn`s `day` shorter by five minutes
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Last Updated: Wednesday, July 29, 2009, 22:07
Paris: A day on Saturn is pretty short, and it just got shorter.

The time it takes the be-ringed behemoth to complete a spin on its axis has just been calculated by astrophysicists at 10 hours, 34 minutes and 13 seconds, more than five minutes shorter than previous estimates.

A planet comprising clouds of gas driven by layers of mighty jet streams, Saturn has no lasting visual landmarks as a rocky planet does, and this lack makes it hard to measure the planet's rotation.

As a result, astronomers have traditionally based their calculations on Saturn's magnetic field. But this signal can fluctuate and does not accurately measure how fast the planet's deep interior is rotating.

An international team led by scientists from Oxford University and the University of Louisville, Kentucky, used a different technique based on infrared images taken by the US spacecraft Cassini orbiting Saturn.

Their paper is released today by Nature, the British-based science journal.

"We realised that we could combine information on what was visible on the surface of Saturn with Cassini's infrared data about the planet's deep interior and build a three-dimensional map of Saturn's winds," said Oxford professor Peter Read.

Bureau Report

First Published: Wednesday, July 29, 2009, 22:07

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