The space agency's research suggests Saturn's iconic rings are disappearing at the highest possible rate, based on measurements captured by the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft decades ago. The rings are being absorbed into Saturn by gravity as a sooty rain of ice particles underneath the impact of Saturn's magnetic field.
Every half hour, enough water is drained from the rings to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool, O'Donoghue said in a NASA press release. The Cassini-spacecraft measured ring-material detected falling into Saturn's equator will shorten the rings' lifespan to less than 100 million years.
An artist's impression of how Saturn may look in the next 100m years. That orbit will expose the Sun to different portions of the rings and will, therefore, change the quantity of ring rain the planet experiences.
"From this by itself, the whole ring framework will be gone in 300 million years", Mr O'Donoghue included, however noticed that really the circumstance was undeniably increasingly critical. 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.
Scientists have lengthily mentioned the double origin of the Saturn ring system, which can have fashioned from shattered items of small moons, comets or asteroids.
A close-up of Saturn's rings taken by Cassini.
Yet, on the off chance that the rings truly do just have 100 million years left as the research proposes, it might be the situation the planet wasn't born with them, as it's unlikely something so delicate would have endured the previous multiple billion years. Data the spacecraft beamed back showed that, while that region of space around the planet was fairly devoid of matter, it also revealed that Saturn's gravity was dragging particles from the inner edge of the ring down into the atmosphere. Some suggest it was formed around 4 billion years ago - at the same time as the planet and the rest of the solar system - but others suggest they surrounded the planet many years after the solar system's birth.
"We are lucky to be around to see Saturn's ring system, which appears to be in the middle of its lifetime", says O'Donoghue.
O'Donoghue is the lead author of a study on Saturn's ring rain appearing in the journal Icarus. Scientists are anyway trying to find out f the Saturn was formed with the ring or it acquired it later in life. When this happens, the particles can feel the pull of Saturn's magnetic field, which curves inward toward the planet at Saturn's rings.
The vast, majestic rings of Saturn are one of the most captivating and exquisite features of the Solar System, but unfortunately these ice-strewn bands that make this planet so distinguishable are in trouble, as scientists have discovered that they are disappearing at an alarming rate.