Astronomers have been aware since the 1980s that Saturn’s icy innermost rings are eroding steadily onto its upper atmosphere, space.com reports.
The rate of this erosion is so high that a volume of water equivalent to that of an Olympic-sized swimming pool showers onto the gas giant every day.
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Exact rate of Saturn losing its ring is uncertain
The exact pace at which the distinctive ring system is diminishing, thus determining its eventual disappearance, remains uncertain.
The rings could potentially vanish in approximately 300 million years if the current rate persists.
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Although this may seem distant in terms of time, the ongoing downpour is leading to a relatively rapid demise of the symbolic ring system in cosmic terms.
Nevertheless, astronomers state that the rate at which the ring material is descending onto the planet remains largely unknown, and the rings could vanish as quickly as 100 million years or endure for 1.1 billion years.
A debate on how the rings were born
While studying the Saturnian world, astronomers engaged in a decades-old debate about the birth of the planet’s rings and the precise timing thereof, even as the new research aids in predicting the destiny of the rings.
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Several models had previously suggested that the rings had existed as a permanent structure around Saturn since the formation of the solar system 4.5 billion years ago.
However, data gathered from the Cassini spacecraft presented a more youthful portrayal, estimating their age to be merely 10 million to 100 million years old.
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