Most of the celestial bodies in our solar system have one or two quirks about them – to say the least – that makes them particularly special or noteworthy! From Jupiter’s red spot to the unique red hues of Mars, each and every one of the planets around us have something about them. Saturn, for as long as we have been aware of it, has been the ‘planet with the rings’. However, according to recent reports, it appears that status may not last for much longer if concerns are to be upheld. Saturn’s rings are disappearing at what is thought to be the worst possible rate – but why?
According to Sky News, NASA research has found that gravity is to blame for what is being referred to as ‘ring rain’. Essentially, the rings of Saturn are being drained and pulled into the planet as a result of intense magnetism, meaning that, eventually, the celestial body will be completely ringless. Research and analysis suggests that may occur in as relatively little as 300 million years. Considering the age of our solar system and how long Saturn has been in our galaxy, that’s only really a drop in the ocean.
“We estimate that this ‘ring rain’ drains an amount of water products that could fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool from Saturn’s rings in half an hour,” NASA’s James O’Donoghue advised.
Saturn 'losing its rings', new NASA research finds [video]
However, while Saturn’s rings may be depleting, we’re still unsure as to how they were acquired in the first place. Current studies and theories suggest that the rings may have been acquired after Saturn came into being – though with the orb being roughly four million years old, it’s naturally extremely difficult to try and quantify such matters. NASA, however, are always keen to give such perplexing questions a try!
It’s suggested that the rings are a series of belts made up of moon or asteroid collisions, which have formed into orbit over millions of years. However, it seems the strength of Saturn is finally proving to be too much for the mysterious bands, which will sadly expire at some point – albeit not during our lifetime.
Saturn is one of the iconic gas giants, and as such, any hopes of landing there in the near future are physically impossible – however, this hasn’t stopped the body becoming the focus of a number of extensive studies and analyses over the years. How did Saturn get its rings? Time’s running out to find out!