(WYTV) – Let’s go to the sixth planet from the sun, which is a billion miles away and nearly 800 times larger than Earth.
Soon, in cosmic time, Saturn’s rings will completely disappear, and we know they haven’t been there a long time to begin with.
We’ve learned this from the Cassini spacecraft mission. The satellite we sent there studied Saturn, its many moons and the famous ring system.
Cassini told us that ten tons of ring material are falling into Saturn every second. Thus, the rings are deteriorating.
They have less than 100 million years to live, and on the scale of time in the universe, that’s pretty much next week.
Where did the rings come from?
It’s possible that an icy object, say a comet wandering through the solar system, got caught in Saturn’s gravitational field and that field ripped it apart.
Now, it circles the planet in billions of tiny pieces in many rings.
The rings may be only ten million years old, so we are living in a fortunate time when we can see the rings before they’re gone.