Saturn is the second largest planet of our solar system. The most significant feature of Saturn, that sets it apart from other is its glorious rings. The rings are so beautiful and so prominent, that a kid can also recognize Saturn out of all planets. But, these beautiful rings might soon become a thing of the past. Saturn is losing its rings at a fast pace. Scientists are surprised at the rate at which the rings are vanishing, much faster than they had calculated.
As mentioned earlier, Saturn is the second largest planet of the solar system after Jupiter. Saturn is a massive ball, made up of mainly hydrogen and helium. It has a radius of about 36,183.7 miles (58,232 kilometers) and this makes Saturn 9 times wider than the earth. However, such a humongous planet with enormous majestic rings, are facing rains. The rains are called ring rains. Presently, it is raining 10,000 kg of ring rain/ second on Saturn. The rain is nothing but the disintegrated portions of the rings of the planets. According to NASA, the Saturn’s rings are composed of ice and rocks. These rings have been affected by the constant bombardment by UV radiation, meteoroids, etc. When these bodies collide with the rings, part of the ice vaporizes, transform into charged water molecules and ions. These ions then interact with Saturn’s magnetic field and fall as rain. The ring rain rate is so high, that this rate can fill an Olympic swimming pool in half an hour.
The phenomenon of ring rain was first observed in the 1980s, when NASA’s Voyager mission noticed certain mysterious dark bands. These bands later turned out to be the ring rain falling due to the Saturn’s magnetic field. NASA’s another spacecraft Cassini got a closer and better view of the amount of ring dust raining on the equatorial zone of Saturn. During that time, scientists calculated the rain rate and anticipated that the rings has only 100 million years left to survive. But now, the rain rate has increased manifold times and scientists fear that the planet might go ringless much before than expected.