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Saturn's rings can be gone in just 100 million years

Image: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Space Science Institute With its extensive ring system, Saturn is among the most beautiful planets in the solar system. Unfortunately, the beauty can be volatile, according to new research. Saturn's rings dissolve faster than scientists expect, according to the study, and they could be gone in 100 million to 300 million years, a cosmological blink of the eye. Saturn's rings consist mainly of water ice, but new research was published. In the journal, Icarus shows that the rings are attacked by the planet's gravity and magnetic fields, triggering a phenomenon called "rain rain". Researchers first documented the call back in 2013, but new research led by James O'Guard from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, shows that the effect is happening much faster than expected, and consequently, it is also the rate that Saturn's rings rot on . Scientists are not completely convinced if Saturn was born with his beautiful halo, or if it acquired his ring system later in life. If it was the last, the rings formed about 4.4 billion years ago, but if it was the latter, they formed only about 100 million years ago, probably the consequence of colliding monuments in circulation around Saturn, according to research published in 2016. If they The latest formation scenario is true, meaning that Saturn had no rings when giant-sauropod dinosaurs roamed the ground under Jurassic. But dinosaurs did not have telescopes, so it did not matter. Fortunately, people have telescopes at a…

Image: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Space Science Institute

With its extensive ring system, Saturn is among the most beautiful planets in the solar system. Unfortunately, the beauty can be volatile, according to new research. Saturn’s rings dissolve faster than scientists expect, according to the study, and they could be gone in 100 million to 300 million years, a cosmological blink of the eye.

Saturn’s rings consist mainly of water ice, but new research was published. In the journal, Icarus shows that the rings are attacked by the planet’s gravity and magnetic fields, triggering a phenomenon called “rain rain”. Researchers first documented the call back in 2013, but new research led by James O’Guard from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, shows that the effect is happening much faster than expected, and consequently, it is also the rate that Saturn’s rings rot on .

Scientists are not completely convinced if Saturn was born with his beautiful halo, or if it acquired his ring system later in life. If it was the last, the rings formed about 4.4 billion years ago, but if it was the latter, they formed only about 100 million years ago, probably the consequence of colliding monuments in circulation around Saturn, according to research published in 2016. If they The latest formation scenario is true, meaning that Saturn had no rings when giant-sauropod dinosaurs roamed the ground under Jurassic. But dinosaurs did not have telescopes, so it did not matter. Fortunately, people have telescopes at a time when Saturn has its lovely rings, so I guess we’re happy for it.

The artist’s impression of how Saturn can look at the next hundred million years. GIF: NASA / Cassini / James Donoghue

“We are lucky to look around Saturn’s ring system, which appears to be in the middle of its lifetime,” said Donoghue in a statement. “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.”

At any time, when the Voyager probes visited Saturn several decades ago, they discovered the gas giant’s electrically charged upper atmosphere, or ionosphere, along with density variations in their rings and three dark and narrow bands surrounding the northern latitudes of the planet. Back in 1986, NASA researchers connected these narrow, dark bands to the shape of Saturn’s large magnetic fields. These seemingly unrelated observations led to the theory that the electrically charged particles from Saturn’s rings flow down the magnetic field lines – a process that resulted in water dumping from their rings to their ion sphere and creating the narrow bands seen in the Voyager images.

Saturn’s rings look giant out of the earth, but pieces of water ranging in size from microscopic dust to giant stone blocks are captured in a giant war game. The rings are in a delicate balance, stuck between Saturn’s gravitation pressures and the orbital towers that drag them outward in space. This balance is disturbed when the ice particles are loaded by the sun’s ultraviolet light, which causes the particles to dive down the planet along its magnetic field lines, with gravity giving an extra boost.

This process, where the water interacts with the planet’s ionosphere, can actually be detected from the ground. For the new study, the O & # 39; Donoghue Keck Telescope at Mauna Kea, Hawaii, used to detect and measure these chemical interactions with the liquid ionosphere. His team compared the light in the planet’s northern and southern latitudes to determine how much rain falls from the rings, including observations.

Unbelievably, researchers estimate that 4,400 pounds of water (10,000 kilograms) pour out of Saturn’s rings every second. At this rate of loss, the rings should be about 292 million years old.

O & # 39; Donoghue says that this amount of rain shower could fill an Olympic big swimming pool in just half an hour. However, other evidence collected by the Cassini probe suggests a more even earlier expiration date. The Cassini spacecraft measured ring materials that fall into Saturn’s equator with an interest rate suggesting “the rings have less than 100 million years of living,” said Donoghue in the statement, adding: “This is relatively short compared to Saturn’s age over 4 billion years. “

The latest study, I have to say, really bother me. It’s sad to think about Saturn without their rings, even if it’s millions of years. Our solar system will be significantly less spectacular than it is today when it finally happens. But who knows, maybe another planet will have its own ring system during that time.

[Icarus]
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Faela