Saturn's rings are disappearing and when its completely gone we won't be around to see
Washington, Dec 18: A new research by NASA confirms that Saturn is losing its iconic rings at the maximum rate estimated from Voyager 1 & 2 observations made decades ago.
The rings are being pulled into Saturn by gravity as a dusty rain of ice particles under the influence of Saturn's magnetic field.
In a new video, NASA Goddard explains that while we've always seen Saturn with its bold rings, the rings themselves are actually fairly young. Estimated to be less than 100 million years old, they're a "new" feature of the planet, and they won't be sticking around for long.
Saturn's rings are mostly chunks of water ice ranging in size from microscopic dust grains to boulders several yards across.
The 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.
NASA's estimates of the amount of material present in the rings, combined with data on how much of it is falling, points to the rings being completely gone within 300 million years. A timeline like that means that none of us will actually be around to see Saturn in its future ring-less state, but that's beside the point. The fact is that Saturn is rapidly heading towards another ring-free phase of its life.