WITHOUT THIS WORLD | What's happening in space – the biggest news comes down to earth from space
Meteorologist / Science Writer
Tuesday, December 18, 2018, 20:31 – Saturn can be called the ringed planet, but the iconic rings disappear, and the latest survey shows that they disappear at an amazing pace.
Decades ago, when Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft flew over Saturn, which gave us our first close-up on this amazing planet, researchers used the data that the probes were sent back to find out that the big rings surrounding it rained down in the planet's upper atmosphere.
They found that this was due to the fact that the water molecules in the icy rings were electrically charged either by interaction with ultraviolet radiation from the sun or by meteoroid bombardment, and that the water was then captured in Saturn's magnetic field and dragged into the planet's atmosphere of gravity. Based on their results, the researchers drew different degrees of loss of the rings, to estimate how long it would be before they completely disappeared.
In the artist's impression, water molecules spiral around Saturn's magnetic field lines, flowing from the rings to the upper atmosphere of the planet. Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
"We estimate that this" drizzle "drains a variety of water products that can fill an Olympic big swimming pool from Saturn's rings in half an hour," said James O'Guard from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in a NASA press release on Tuesday. "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 of living. This is relatively short compared to Saturn's age over 4 billion years. "
Leading until September 15, 2017 the "Grand Finale" of NASA's Cassini spacecraft, when the mission team lowered the probe into the atmosphere of the planet, the spacecraft was sent on a lane to slip between the planet and its rings. The data spaceboat beamed back showed that while the area of space around the planet was quite lacking matter, it also revealed that Saturn's gravity dragged particles from the inner edge of the ring into the atmosphere.
Based on a new research paper written by O & # 39; Donoghue and six other researchers from institutions across the United States and Britain, the combined effect of these two mechanisms causes ring material to rain down on Saturn at which NASA calls the worst case scenario of the Estimates provided by Voyager data.
"RINGED PLANET", no more?
One hundred million years is a long time through human computation, but in a time scale that is quite fast compared to the age of the solar system, Saturn is expected to dramatically change its appearance.
The artist's perception shows how Saturn's appearance can change over the next hundred million years, as the inner rings disappear first, rain on the planet and then very slowly followed by material from the outer rings. Credit: NASA / Cassini / James O & # 39; Donoghue
Research has already shown that Saturn's rings are quite young. Instead of forming together with the planet, billions of years ago, they probably came from a particular process, such as a collision or a big ice-moon that stretched too close to the planet, it occurred no more than 100 million years ago.
"We are lucky to be around to see Saturn's ring system, which appears to be in the middle of his lifetime," added O'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!"
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