connectVideoAre Saturn’s rings disappearing? NASA scientists warn the planet’s rings could disappear in less than 100 million years
New research from NASA says that the rings of Saturn, which are made of ice, are to be pulled apart and may completely disappear in less than 100 million years.
Saturn’s famous rings disappear, so enjoy them while they last. According to NASA scientists, the rings that are made mostly of ice and rock, some pieces that are about as big as a house will be completely gone in less than 100 million years.
The planet’s gravity slowly pulling the rings from each other, allowing the eroded ice particles rain down on the surface of the planet as the “ring rain.” The new research builds on a few hours of groundbased –comments of Hawaii in 2011. During those few observed hours, the rain of the rings is between 925 and 6000 pounds per second, enough to fill an Olympic swimming pool within a half hour.
The rings remain suspended around Saturn, thanks to a carefully balanced push-and-pull-show– the planet’s gravity trying to pull out of the particles, while at the same time their orbital period is trying to throw them in the space.
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The new study, under the leadership of Dr. James O’donoghue of NASA’s Planetary Megnetospheres Laboratory, describes how sometimes the ring particles electrically charged by the sun. Saturn’s magnetic field draws these charged particles, where they slide down the magnetic field lines and enter the atmosphere of the planet. There, the particles evaporate and are hydrogen load drops of the “ring rain” that glow in infrared light.
“Ring rain” on Saturn is not completely unlike the rain on Earth – water falling from the sky,” NASA researcher Dr. Jack Connerney, which suggested this phenomenon in a 1986 study, explained to Fox News. “But on Saturn, the rain consists of chunks of ring material that are very small (less than a micron in size) and electrically charged, so their movement is controlled by the magnetic field. They need to move along magnetic-field lines, under the influence of gravity, centrifugal force, and the “magnetic mirror” force, from the source location in the ring plane (e.g., the inner edge of the B-ring) to the planet of the ionosphere.”
The study appeared Monday in the journal Icarus.
According to Connerney, since Saturn’s magnetic field in the a-symmetrical, the ring of rain, originating at a certain place in the rings “rains” down in a specific length on Saturn.
“Where it rains, it has a dramatic effect on the ionosphere and also from the visual evidence–for example, narrow, dark bands that result from depletion of stratospheric haze, and less reflected sunlight,” he added. “James [O’donoghue] and his colleagues discovered a latitudinal variation in ion density that, as predicted, is a result of the incident material (water, in the form of small ice-particles).”
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If the ring precipitation has been observed from Hawaii in 2011 was a typical day on Saturn, O’donoghue and his team gathered that the rings would be gone in 300 million years. There are, however, new data from the satellite Cassini, which is a “death dive” in Saturn’s atmosphere a year ago, it turned out that the rain that falls in the planet relative to the equator at an even higher rate if the craft was pelted with ice particles. Taking into account the Cassini data and their own research, O’donoghue, estimated that the rings have less than 100 million years around.
“Since the rings are the losses of material, in essence, undermines, we can estimate the service life of the rings by looking at how much things seem to have been removed,” Dr. Connerney said. “We did that many years ago (with Ted Northrop), by comparing the optical depth of the material in the C-ring with that in the B-ring and attributing the loss to this erosion mechanism. We had a similar life to look at the effect on the ionosphere (with Hunter Waite) also many years ago. These studies all estimated ring age from a few tens to 100 million years.”