Saturn’s rings are disappearing much faster than previously thought

(ORDO NEWS) — If you had to identify Saturn from the “crowd” of gas giants, you would most likely recognize it from its famous ring system.

Saturn is the owner of the largest and brightest rings in our solar system , which extend over 280,000 kilometers from the planet. For comparison, the diameter of the Earth is 12,742 kilometers. However, this feature of Saturn will not last forever as the rings disappear.

Self-destruction of the rings of Saturn

Yes, yes, you heard right! The rings of Saturn are disappearing! And it’s happening much faster than previously thought. Saturn is currently consuming about 10,000 kilograms of ring material every second.

Recall that this material is a mixture of fragments of ice and rocks, which are continuously bombarded: some by the ultraviolet radiation of the Sun, and others by small meteoroids.

During the collisions, some particles evaporate, forming charged water molecules that interact with Saturn’s magnetic field, and then rush to the center of the gas giant, becoming part of the atmosphere along the way.

Ring rain has been known about since the 1980s, when NASA‘s Voyager 2 spacecraft discovered mysterious dark streaks that turned out to be ring rain trapped in Saturn’s magnetic fields. Approximate calculations have shown that the complete destruction of the ring system will occur in about 300 million years.

The Grim Future of the Rings

Data from NASA’s Cassini mission has provided a clearer picture of the amount of ring dust consumed by Saturn every second. The ring rains were found to be more intense than previously thought based on Voyager 2 data.

Saturns rings are disappearing much faster than previously thought 2

The study , based on improved measurements, has shown that Saturn’s rings have about 100 million years to live. It is rather difficult to imagine that one day the “pearl” of the solar system will lose its peculiarity.

However, for most of its existence, Saturn was not the owner of luxurious rings. The planet formed about 4.5 billion years ago, but acquired rings only about 100-200 million years ago.

This suggests that Saturn’s rings may be younger than some of the dinosaurs that appeared during the Triassic period, between 243 and 233.23 million years ago.

So, if you think about it, we are very lucky that we are witnessing the bewitching cosmic beauty that can be observed with an amateur telescope


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