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Space & Astronomy

Saturn's rings are gradually disappearing

December 19, 2018 | Comment icon 9 comments



Saturn's spectacular rings won't last forever. Image Credit: NASA
A new study has revealed that Saturn's rings may be slowly falling on to the gas giant as 'ring rain'.
One of our solar system's most beautiful and cherished spectacles, the rings of Saturn are comprised of countless icy particles ranging in size from a few millimeters to several meters across.

Originally thought to have formed 4.5 billion years ago during the earliest days of the solar system, the rings are now believed to be much more recent - perhaps only a hundred million years old - and were formed from the debris left over from a collision between Saturn and a small icy body such as a moon.
While it is difficult to imagine Saturn without its rings, a new study lead by NASA's James O'Donoghue has highlighted the likelihood that they could be gone entirely within a relatively short time frame.

The research describes a process through which the ice particles that make up the rings are being gradually pulled towards Saturn by the planet's gravity, producing what is known as ring rain.

Eventually - within another 300 million years at most - the rings will have disappeared entirely.



Source: EarthSky.org | Comments (9)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Likely Guy 4 years ago
I always thought Saturn was the coolest planet just for having rings. First, Pluto's not a planet, now this!
Comment icon #2 Posted by Eldorado 4 years ago
New NASA research confirms that Saturn is losing its iconic rings at the maximum rate estimated from Voyager 1 & 2 observations made decades ago. The rings are being pulled into Saturn by gravity as a dusty rain of ice particles under the influence of Saturn's magnetic field. "We estimate that this 'ring rain' drains an amount of water products that could fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool from Saturn's rings in half an hour," said James O'Donoghue of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "From this alone, the entire ring system will be gone in 300 million years, but ... [More]
Comment icon #3 Posted by Seti42 4 years ago
Maybe someday all of our space junk will form a ring system around earth.
Comment icon #4 Posted by paperdyer 4 years ago
Maybe Saturn may be inhabitable sometime in the future. If we're not here, maybe some life will start there on it's own.
Comment icon #5 Posted by toast 4 years ago
This one takes the cake. Splendid, just splendid.
Comment icon #6 Posted by paperdyer 4 years ago
And why? Just because it's not habitable now doesn't mean it can't be in the distant future.
Comment icon #7 Posted by toast 4 years ago
Do you know what a gas planet is?
Comment icon #8 Posted by Orphalesion 4 years ago
Guys, nobody tell him about the Great Red Spot on Jupiter disappearing as well... Well, there is the (whimsical) idea about floating organism possibly inhabiting some layers of gas giants, I assume they mean that.
Comment icon #9 Posted by Sir Smoke aLot 4 years ago
There are many other ''rocks'' which get captured by Saturn's strong gravity so it will ''grow'' again, no doubt. Also, Enceladus does a lot with it's water plumes.


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