Saturn, a planet known for its iconic accessories, may not have always been this way. Almost entirely pure ice, a small percent of the ring’s mass is made up of non-icy “pollution” from micrometeoroids, such as asteroid fragments smaller than a grain of sand. These constantly collide with other ring particles, further contributing material circling the planet. Three recent studies by @NASAAmes researchers and their science partners provide evidence that the rings are a relatively recent addition to Saturn and that they may last only another few hundred million years.
Though Saturn’s rings may be short-lived, we can be grateful to be a species born at a time when Saturn was dressed to the nines, a planetary fashion icon for us to behold and study.
Image description: A black-and-white view of Saturn from the Cassini orbiter, captured on May 4, 2014. The view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 37 degrees above the ring plane. Saturn’s shadow is casted on the left side of the rings.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute