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Goodbye to the rings of Saturn | space



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The broad, iconic rings of Saturn make this planet a telescopic showpiece of the solar system, but new research confirms that the rings of the planet are only transient. The new work was published on December 17, 2018 in the peer-reviewed journal Icarus . It describes a process in which ice particles from the rings are pulled by gravity to Saturn and fall as dusty ring rain .

James O & Donoghue of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center is the lead author of the new study. O'Donoghue said in a statement:

We estimate that this "ring rain" releases a lot of water products that could fill an Olympic swimming pool from Saturn's rings in half an hour.

Saturn's rings are made up of innumerable separate particles of sizes ranging from pea-sized to large boulders. These particles consist mainly of water ice with a trail of rocky material. There are two basic ways that Saturn got his rings. It is conceivable that Saturn formed with the rings of the great gas and dust cloud that formed our sun and the other planets four and a half billion years ago. Or, as it now seems more likely, the rings began as moons for Saturn, which collided, or a moon that came too close (within the Roche boundary of Saturn) and was destroyed by tidal forces.

The new research suggests that the rings are new and temporary. As in some earlier studies, this suggests a much younger age of the rings than 4 1

/2 billion years. But the ring rain states that the rings will not last more than 300 million years, these scientists said. Earlier research suggested an even shorter timeframe for the rings, leaving them with less than 100 million years to live. O'Donoghue said:

We are fortunate to see Saturn's ring system seemingly in the midst of life. However, if the rings are only temporary, we may have simply missed seeing huge ring systems of Jupiter, Uranus, and Neptune that today have only thin curls!

Artistic concept of how Saturn could look in the next hundred million years. According to this scenario, the innermost rings would disappear first when they rain on the planet. They are followed more slowly by the outer rings. Image via NASA / Cassini / James O & # 39; Donoghue

The first evidence that a ring rain existed comes from the observations of the Voyager spacecraft in the early 1980s. Well, according to NASA statement:

Ring particles are held in a balancing act between the gravitational pull of Saturn's gravity, which it wants to pull back into the planet, and its orbital velocity, which it wants to hurl outward into space. Tiny particles can be electrically charged by ultraviolet light from the sun or by plasma clouds generated by micrometeoroid bombardment of the rings. When this happens, the particles can feel the magnetic attraction of the Saturn magnetic field, which, at the Saturn rings, tilts inward towards the planet. In some parts of the rings, the balance of forces on these tiny particles changes dramatically after charging, and the gravity of Saturn pulls them along the magnetic field lines into the upper atmosphere.

Once there, the ice ring particles evaporate water can react chemically with the ionosphere of Saturn. One result of these reactions is the increase in the lifetime of electrically charged particles, the so-called H3 + ions, which consist of three protons and two electrons. When excited by sunlight, the H3 + ions glow in infrared light, as witnessed by O & # 39; Donoghue's team using special instruments at the Keck Telescope in Mauna Kea, Hawaii.

Their observations showed glowing bands in the northern and southern hemispheres of Saturn. The magnetic field lines intersecting the ring plane enter the planet. They analyzed the light to determine the rainfall of the ring and its effects on the ionosphere of Saturn. They found that the amount of rain surprisingly well matches the amazingly high levels that were derived more than three decades earlier …

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The Cassini probe circling Saturn from 2004 to 2017 scanned Saturn on April 25, 2016, and captured three sets of red, green, and blue images to show the planet and its main rings. Cassini was about 3 million kilometers from Saturn at that time. Image via NASA / JPL-Caltech / Space Science Institute.

The team also found that the rain was highest in a region south of Saturn.

And they discovered a glowing band in the south of Saturn's hemisphere. Here Saturn's magnetic field crosses the orbit of Saturn's moon Enceladus, discovered by the Cassini spacecraft, to launch geysers of water ice into space.

It has been assumed for some years that a part of this Enceladus material also rains on Saturn, and this new work confirms that Lunar Rain also exists.

Saturn's moon Enceladus drifts in front of the rings and the tiny moon Pandora in this view taken by the NASA spacecraft Cassini on November 1, 2009. The entire scene is backlit by the sun and provides impressive lighting for the icy particles that make up the two of them. The rings and the jets come from the South Pole of Enceladus, which is about 505 km wide. The approximately 84 km wide Pandora was on the opposite side of the rings of Cassini and Enceladus when the picture was taken. This view is also focused on the night side of Pandora, which is illuminated by weak light reflected by Saturn. Image via NASA / JPL-Caltech / Space Science Institute. Conclusion: Recent research confirms the notion that the iconic rings of the planet Saturn are transient. Apparently a ring rain falls on Saturn, which should make the rings disappear within 100 to 300 million years.

Source: Observations of the chemical and thermal reaction of "ring-rain" on Saturn's ionosphere

Via NASA

  Eleanor Imster


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