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The Interior of Saturn

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Saturn from Cassini-Huygens

Abstract

A source of uncertainty in Saturn interior models is the lack of a unique rotation rate to be ascribed to the deep (metallic-hydrogen) interior. As a result, models are not uniquely constrained by measured gravitational multiple coefficients. Further uncertainty is associated with the effect of a multiplicity of rotation periods due to zonal flows of unknown magnitude and depth (and therefore unknown mass). Nevertheless, the inference that Saturn has a large core of mass 15–20 M e (Earth masses) is robust. The equation of state of dense hydrogen—helium mixtures is one area where uncertainty has been much reduced, thanks to new first-principles simulations. However, because there is still uncertainty in Saturn's interior temperature profile, a variety of mantle metallicities and core masses could still fit the constraints, and the question of interior helium separation is still unsettled.

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Acknowledgment

We thank M. Podolak and another referee for helpful comments. Figures 4.4 and 4.5 are reprinted from Icarus 164, J. J. Fortney and W. B. Hubbard, “Phase separation in giant planets: inho-mogeneous evolution of Saturn”, pp. 228–243, Copyright 2003, with permission from Elsevier.

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Hubbard, W.B., Dougherty, M.K., Gautier, D., Jacobson, R. (2009). The Interior of Saturn. In: Dougherty, M.K., Esposito, L.W., Krimigis, S.M. (eds) Saturn from Cassini-Huygens. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-9217-6_4

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