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
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!
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 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.