Saturn loses its iconic rings in a "worst case scenario" speed, new NASA research has revealed.
The gas giant can lose its rings in less than 100 million years, which is relatively short considering the planet is more than 4 billion years old.
This conclusion was based on estimates from Voyager 1 & 2 observations – robot probes launched by the space agency to study the outer solar system – decades ago.
The rings are drawn into Saturn by gravity as "a dusty rain of ice particles under the planet's magnetic field".
"We estimate that this" ring rain "drains a lot of water products that could fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool from Saturn's rings for half an hour," said James O'Hare, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, USA. .
"From this, the entire ring system will be gone for 300 million years, but add this Cassini spacecraft measured ring material discovered to fall into Saturn's equator, and the rings have less than 1
Where did Saturn get his rings?
Several theories exist that speculate where the planet got its belts, which are mostly composed of lumps of ice, which vary in size from microscopic grains to boulders of several meters above, according to NASA.
This new research favors the idea that the planet got them later in life – the rings could have been formed when they were small, icy moons in orbit around Saturn collided, possibly because their paths were interrupted by a gravitational train from a fitting asteroid or comet.
"We are lucky to see around Saturn's ring system, which seems to be in the middle of its lifetime. But if the rings are temporary, we just missed seeing giant ring systems by Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune, who only have narrow ringlets today!" Donogue finished.
"But if rings are temporary, we just missed seeing giant ring systems by Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune, who only have narrow ringlets today!"