Saturn losing its iconic rings rapidly: NASA

Saturn losing its iconic rings rapidly: NASA

written by FPJ News Service Washington: Saturn is fast losing its iconic rings – at maximum estimated rate. The rings are being pulled into Saturn by gravity as a dusty rain of ice particles under the influence of the planet’s magnetic field.At this rate, the Saturn’s rings are likely to disappear in the next 100 million years.”We estimate that this ‘ring rain’ drains amount of water that could fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool in half an hour,” said James O’Donoghue of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre in the US.

Scientists have long wondered if Saturn was formed with the rings or if the planet acquired them later in life. The new research favours the latter scenario, indicating that they are unlikely to be older than 100 million years, as it would take that long for the C-ring to become what it is today assuming it was once as dense as the B-ring.“We are lucky to be around to see Saturn’s ring system, which appears to be in the middle of its lifetime.

However, if rings are temporary, perhaps we just missed out on seeing giant ring systems of Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune, which have only thin ringlets today!” O’Donoghue added. Various theories have been proposed for the ring’s origin. If the planet got them later in life, the rings could have formed when small, icy moons in orbit around Saturn collided, perhaps because their orbits were disturbed by a gravitational tug from a passing asteroid or comet.

Saturn’s rings are mostly chunks of water ice ranging in size from microscopic dust grains to boulders several yards (meters) across. Ring particles are caught in a balancing act between the pull of Saturn’s gravity, which wants to draw them back into the planet, and their orbital velocity, which wants to fling them outward into space.

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