The US space agency confirmed that Saturn’s emblematic rings are being dragged towards the planet by gravity, like a dusty rain of ice particles under the influence of the planet’s magnetic field.
Saturn’s rings are made of an innumerable amount of small particles, composed mainly of frozen water and rocky material.
There is still no consensus as to their mechanism of formation; some features of the rings suggest a relatively recent origin, but theoretical models indicate they are likely to have formed early in the Solar System’s history.
Their destiny, however, is now clear to scientists. Experts say that the icon rings have around 100 million years left, after which they will disappear from sight.
“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,” explained James O’Donoghue of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
“From this alone, the entire ring system will be gone in 300 million years, but add to this the Cassini-spacecraft measured ring-material detected falling into Saturn’s equator, and the rings have less than 100 million years to live,” O’Donoghue added.
As explained by experts, the ring particles are caught in a balancing tug-o’-war between the pull of the planets gravity, which wants to draw them back into the planet, and their orbital velocity, which wants to fling them outward into space.
Now, experts have revealed that the rings are raining down on Saturn at a much faster rate.
“This is relatively short, compared to Saturn’s age of over 4 billion years,” explained experts.
As e explained in a new study published in the journal Icarus, Saturn’s rings are at their mid life point, which means that they aren’t probably older than 100 million years, since it would take that long for the C-ring to become what it is today assuming it was once as dense as the planet’s B-ring.