Having worked in the orbit of Saturn for almost 20 yearsNASA's Cassini space probe, even in the last moments of its life, did not stop transmitting amazing facts about the gas giant to Earth. After analyzing the next batch of information he collected, scientists found that the inner rings of the planet, those closest to the planet’s atmosphere, could soon (by cosmic standards) disappear completely. The matter of the rings is actively “devoured” by the very atmosphere of the planet. This was reported in an article published in the journal Science.
Submerging the device at the last stage of its operation inSaturn’s atmosphere, scientists hoped to find out the nature of the magnetic field of the gas giant, as well as the peculiarity of its interaction with the accumulations of gas and dust that make up the planet’s rings. “Cassini” spent its last minutes inside in a special area of the Saturnian atmosphere, where there is an exotic “rain” of micro-droplets of water and dust particles that gradually fall on Saturn from the rings nearest to it.
"It turned out that the rings of Saturn are not just"Drizzle" falling into the atmosphere of the planet, and give rise to a real rainfall. Ice, water droplets and dust move so fast that every second Saturn “devours” about 10-45 tons of ring material, ”commented astronomer Hunter White of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder (USA).
Scientists suspected the existence of this rainback in the 80s. Data on it was obtained by Voyager devices flying past the gas giant, but until the very end of the Cassini mission, scientists were not sure that this continuous stream of dust and water was generated by rings, and not some internal processes in the bowels of the planet .
Diving the device into the atmosphere proved their nature, andalso allowed to find out what they consist of. It turned out that in their composition the rings are very reminiscent of the matter of comets. Scientists have found that they contain a large amount of organics, oxygen and ammonia, which enter into complex reactions during their fall into the atmosphere. In addition, it turned out that the volume of these particles significantly exceeds those volumes that were predicted by cosmological models describing their structure.
Based on the data, scientists concludethat the rings (D and C) closest to the planet should soon disappear. If we talk about ring D, then according to the calculations of researchers, he has only 7-60 thousand years left. The ring can completely disappear if the matter of the ring C does not feed it. Ring C has more time left, but by cosmic standards, it will also disappear very quickly - after 700 thousand or 7 million years, depending on the chosen scenario.
Such conclusions suggest that the presence of rings on the planet may be unstable.
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