SATURN’s iconic rings will eventually disappear – and we have a good idea of when.
The stunning belts of ice, rock and dust are slowly breaking apart.
And it is believed that we are only a few hundred million years away from their complete disappearance.
Scientists are still not entirely sure how the rings formed.
But they make Saturn one of the most easily identifiable planets in our solar system.
Unfortunately, the phenomenon won’t last forever — and “Ring Regen” is to blame.
This destructive process – revealed by astronomers to The Atlantic – means parts of the belt are being disrupted, pulled into Saturn by gravity and eventually vaporized.
It is estimated that 10 tons of “ring matter” falls on Saturn every single second.
Nasa has studied Saturn’s rings extensively using its Cassini mission.
And at the current rate of degradation, Saturn’s entire ring system is estimated to disappear in about 300 million years.
But Nasa says the core rings could have “less than 100 million years to live.”
That means Earthlings still have plenty of time to explore the stunning space phenomenon.
It also means that Saturn’s rings are still in the early stages of their lives.
The rings are estimated to be between 10 and 100 million years old.
For context, dinosaurs only lived on Earth 66 million years ago — while Earth is a whopping 4.543 billion years old.
Put a ring on it
Saturn’s rings are mostly made up of water ice particles, along with some rock debris and dust.
It is the most extensive ring system of any planet in our solar system.
The dense main rings stretch from 4,300 miles to 50,000 miles from Saturn’s equator.
They have an estimated local width of 10 meters to 1 kilometer.
The rings are caught in a balancing act around the planet.
Gravity pulls them inward, but the speed of their orbit wants to fling them out into space.
But recent research suggests that gravity is winning, with Saturn’s rings projected to disappear within 100 million and 300 million years.
“We estimate that this ‘ring rain’ is removing a quantity of water product that could fill an Olympic-size swimming pool from Saturn’s rings in half an hour,” said James O’Donoghue of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in 2018.
He continued, “We are fortunate to be close by to view Saturn’s ring system, which appears to be in the middle of its lifetime,” O’Donoghue explained.
“However, if rings are temporary, we may have just missed seeing huge ring systems of Jupiter, Uranus, and Neptune that have only thin curls today.”
Scientists still don’t know exactly how Saturn’s rings formed.
One theory has it that small, icy moons orbiting Saturn collided, shattered into pieces and formed rings.
It’s also possible that these icy moons were struck by large comets or asteroids, or ruptured by gravity.
The second popular theory is that the rings were never part of a moon, but simply residual material from the formation of Saturn.
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https://www.the-sun.com/tech/5001991/saturn-rings-disappear-ring-rain-origin/ Saturn’s rings will DISAPPEAR as scientists reveal when they will finally disappear