The dusty ice rings of Saturn are gradually disappearing under the effect of the gravity and the magnetic field of this giant gas planet, according to NASA astrophysicists analyzes.
Astronomer James O’Donoghue and his colleagues come to this conclusion after analyzing information obtained in recent years by the Cassini probe and terrestrial telescopes.
In fact, the data collected by the Voyager 1 and 2 probes in the early 1980s found that “rains” of icy water fell from the rings to the planet.
The present works confirm that the emblematic rings of the sixth planet of the solar system are empty of their material at the fastest rate estimated in the various scenarios envisaged at the time.
We estimate that this “ring rain” drains a quantity of water that could fill an Olympic pool every half hour.
This represents up to 10,000 kg of material from the rings that goes to the atmosphere of Saturn every second.
But the recent analyzes by the Cassini spacecraft, which has spent more than 13 years studying the planet, its moons and rings, now suggest that the ring system will be gone in less than 100 million years.
This represents a relatively rapid disappearance considering that the age of the planet is around 4 billion years.
These circular structures have not always existed. They would have formed “hardly” 100 million years ago, according to astrophysicists.
The phenomena in the presence
The ultraviolet radiation of the Sun and the contact of the plasma produced by the collisions between the microasteroids electrically charge the ice dusts that make up the majority of the rings. They are then captured by the magnetic field of Saturn, and its gravitational field brings them back to it. They finish their vaporized races in the atmosphere.
We are lucky to be able to observe the system of rings of Saturn that seems to be in the middle of life. If the rings are temporary, maybe we’ve missed giant ring systems around Jupiter, Uranus, and Neptune, which now have only small, thin rings nowadays.
The details of this work is published in the journal Icarus.