New NASA research confirms that Saturn is losing its iconic rings at the maximum rate estimated from Voyager 1 & 2 observations made decades ago. The rings are being pulled into Saturn by gravity as a dusty rain of ice particles under the influence of Saturn’s magnetic field.
One of the most recognizable planets to amateur astronomers is changing. The ringed planet, Saturn will eventually lose its rings according to NASA scientist, James O’Donoghue of the Goddard Space Flight Center.
O’Donoghue is the lead author of a new study which was published in the December 17, 2018 issue of the peer reviewed journal Icarus.
The study states that ice particles from the rings are being pulled into Saturn’s gravity, and will fall as a dusty rain within 100 to 300 million years.
According to NASA’s press release, the research was funded by NASA and the NASA Postdoctoral Program at NASA Goddard, administered by the Universities Space Research Association. The W.M. Keck Observatory is operated as a scientific partnership among the California Institute of Technology, the University of California, and NASA, and the data in the form of its files are available from the Keck archive. The authors wish to recognize the significant cultural role and reverence that the summit of Mauna Kea has within the indigenous Hawaiian community; they are fortunate to have the opportunity to conduct observations from this mountain.
Source: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
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