Saturn's Rings Could Be Gone In Just 100 Million Years

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Saturn's Rings Could Be Gone In Just 100 Million Years

Both findings help answer another mystery: whether Saturn was born with its rings or acquired them later in its life, possibly by the collision of icy moons that were orbiting the planet.

These seemingly unrelated observations led to the theory that the electrically charged particles from Saturn's rings were flowing down along magnetic field lines - a process that resulted in water being dumped from its rings onto its ionosphere, creating the narrow bands seen in the Voyager images. Using a telescope, you can see even more moons and Saturn's rings tilted at 26 degrees.

The rings of Saturn, a ring system orbiting about the Saturn, consist of countless small particles made nearly of water ice with a trace component of rocky material. 'From this alone, the entire ring system will be gone in 300 million years, but add to this the Cassini-spacecraft measured ring-material detected falling into Saturn's equator, and the rings have less than 100 million years to live. "This is relatively short, compared with Saturn's age of over four billion years".

This comes months after research released in October - which used data from the Cassini spacecraft recorded before it plunged into the planet's atmosphere in 2017 after 20 years of observation- found that "ring rain" was like a "downpour".

Saturn is losing its rings at a "worst-case-scenario" rate according to new research by NASA.

Saturn is Losing its Rings at Worst Case Scenario Rate
NASA says Saturn’s rings are disappearing right before our eyes

The rings are depositing so much ice on to the planet that they will essentially destroy themselves.

Saturn's iconic rings are made up of mostly frozen water which is actually getting pushed onto the planet's surface. The transient nature of the rings established by the recent studies suggests that they were indeed a later accessory, since their very fragility makes it unlikely they could have the lasted the roughly 4.5 billion years from Saturn's birth until now. While Jupiter, Neptune and Uranus do have rings too, Saturn's appear to be more majestic.

"I don't think it's unreasonable, with all these numbers being so high, that we have to seriously consider that the rings won't be around forever", he said.

"It's not out of the question, I would say, that the rings might degrade on this kind of time scale", said Jeff Cuzzi of NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, who was not involved in the research. The discs material is forced onto the planet through a combination of being blasted by radiation from the Sun in addition to clouds of plasma from impacts of space rocks. This mosaic shows everything from the expansive rings to the hexagonal jet stream at the north pole.

The spacecraft took a census of the particles it encountered that were falling toward the planet; the amount of ring rain Cassini caught is "completely consistent" with O'Donoghue's measurements, Spilker said. During its 29.4-year orbit, its rings are exposed to the sun to varying degrees.

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