Friday , December 3 2021

Saturn's rings can disappear within 100 million years due to gravity


Saturn's rings make it one of the most striking planets in the solar system, but scientists believe they can disappear in less than 100 million years – which is not so long when it is thought that the gas giant itself is over 4 billion years old.

New research from NASA shows that the rings – mainly made of water-drained by the gravity of the planet and on Saturn's surface as part of "ring rain".

"We estimate that this" rain "drains a host of water products that could fill an Olympic big swimming pool from Saturn's rings in half an hour," said NASA's James O'Guard, author of the study, in a statement.


"From this alone, the entire ring system will be gone for 300 million years, but add this Cassini spacecraft measured ring material discovered to fall into Saturn's equator, and the rings have less than 100 million years to live."

"Life of my life"

The rings consist mostly of ice clumps, ranging in size from microscopic grains to stone blocks of several meters above, the space agency said.

Their origins have long been discussed among researchers. Some suggest that it was formed about four billion years ago – while the planet and the rest of the solar system – but others suggest that they surrounded the planet many years after the solar system's birth.

What this study indicates is that the rings were formed around the world less than 100 million years ago.


"We are lucky to be around to see Saturn's ring system, which seems to be in the middle of its lifetime," says Donoghue.

"But if the rings are temporary, maybe we just missed seeing giant ring systems of Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune, who only have narrow ringlets today."

dumping Water

This comes months after research released in October – which used data from the Cassini spacecraft recorded before it entered the planet's atmosphere 2017 after 20 years of observation – found that "ring rain" was like a downpour.

During the last step, Cassini's Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer operated as the "nose" of the spaceship, direct sampling of the composition and structure of the atmosphere.


According to the spectrometer layer, Cassini's nose hit the "jackpot" when it sniffed the unknown region between the planet and its closest rings.

This is the key because Saturn's upper atmosphere extends almost to the rings.

Scientists decided that complex organic compounds rain a chemical cocktail of dust from the nearest ring, D-ring, to the upper atmosphere.

The spectrometer revealed the rings that will consist of water, methane, ammonia, carbon monoxide, molecular nitrogen and carbon dioxide.

"While [the spectrometer] were designed to investigate gases, we could measure the ring particles because they hit the spacecraft at such high speeds they evaporated, "said Hunter Waite, principal investigator for the Cassini nose nose.

"Water, along with the newly discovered organic compounds, drops out of the rings faster than anything thought – as much as 10,000 kilos of material per second," he said.


"We know it bumps material from the rings at least 10 times faster than we thought," said Thomas Cravens, co-author of one of the October studies and a professor of physics and astronomy in Kansas.

"If not filled, the rings will not be left – you have a hole in your bucket.

"Jupiter probably had a ring developed to the current pointed ring, and it may be for similar reasons. Rings come and go.

"At some point, they are gradually drained if they do not get any new material in any way."

Saturn is about 900 million miles from the sun, which is almost 10 times as far as our own distance from the star.

While one day on Saturn only takes about 10.7 hours, one year lasts 29 on earth. And this gas giant has a volume that is 700 times as big as our own planet.

Saturn's current orientation lies in a straight line with the sun and the earth (with the earth in the middle), giving us a great view of the planet and also some of its moons.

With a telescope you can see even more moons and Saturn's rings are tilted at 26 degrees.

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