NASA scientists have discovered that Saturn’s rings are disappearing at a rapid pace. Data from the Cassini spacecraft measuring various particles of rings that fell on Saturn can predict Saturn’s rings may be gone less than 100 million years.
A new report from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) estimates that Saturn rings may disappear in 100 – 300 million years, a short time if compared to 4 billion years of Saturn itself.
“One of the most beautiful phenomena in our solar system is the iconic rings of Saturn was not since the beginning and they must disappear one day” Dr. James O’Donoghue, research leader revealed in a statement.
Why is Saturn losing its rings?
The researchers found that the rings — which are 175,000 miles across and 98% ice — are falling bit by bit onto Saturn’s atmosphere, a phenomenon the scientists dubbed “ring rain.”
Saturn most particles are ice, and there are still some parts that are dust and other substances. This new finding data from Cassini spacecraft states that the ice in the ring was pulled by Saturn’s gravity to fall on the surface of the planet like rain.
“The rings are literally raining water onto the planet, The rate is about 2 tons per second — enough to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool every 30 minutes or so,” O’Donoghue said.
The ring rain is caused by sunlight. The ultraviolet light from the sun gives electrical charge to the tiny bits of ice in the rings, causing them to move towards the planet along the lines of its magnetic field.
Saturn’s rings disappearing
Only this part of the data makes it possible to predict that the entire ring system may disappear within 300 million years, but the recent data from the Cassini spacecraft measuring various particles of a ring that fell on Saturn makes it possible to add that Saturn’s ring may live less than 100 million years.
Within a period of time that exceeded many of human life O’Donoghue and his collaborators saw that the disappearance of the ring will occur in ‘The near future’ in relation to various phenomena on the solar system.
Scientists from this NASA said that “We are fortunate to be able to see Saturn’s ring system that looks like it is in the middle ages of its lifespan. However, if these rings are just temporary items sometimes we may have missed the opportunity to see the large ring system of Jupiter, Uranus, or Neptune. Because now there is only a thin ring left.”
The issue of age and life expectancy of Saturn’s ring system has been a long time. Last year many studies indicate that these rings have not existed since the beginning of the solar system. But it began less than a hundred million years ago.
How many rings does Saturn have?
Saturn has four main groups of rings and three unclear groups. These groups are separated by gaps called divisions. Close views of Saturn’s rings by NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft, which flew by them in 1980 and 1981, showed that each ring group is further made up of thousands of smaller rings.