Representative image Photograph:( AFP )
Saturn may flaunt its distinct look in the night sky today but the planet is losing its rings
Saturn sure makes for a grand view in the night sky. After all, it is the only planet in our solar system with easily visible majestic rings. If you have seen Saturn through an everyday telescope, it's hard to miss the mesmerising beauty of the planet.
Saturn's rings are made of rock, ice and dust. It is estimated that the rings are 10 to 100 million years old. That might sound a lot but not much when we know dinosaurs roamed the Earth just 66 million years ago.
Saturn may flaunt its distinct look in the night sky today but the planet is losing its rings.
Imagine pointing your telescope at the sky and finding no difference between Saturn and other planets! Yes, that sounds sad.
Saturn is losing its rings due to what is being called 'ring rain'. No, there is no mysterious rain chipping away at the rings. Saturn is itself attracting the 'ring matter' which is falling towards it from the ring and vapourising. In other words, Saturn is eating away its own rings!
This destructive process was revealed to The Atlantic by astronomers. It is estimated that 10 tonnes of ring matter are falling into Saturn every second!
NASA's Cassini Mission has studied Saturn extensively.
We can heave a sigh of relief though. Saturn is unlikely to lose its grandeur during our lifetimes. At the current rate of degradation, it is estimated that the core of the ring would disappear in 100 million years and the rings will completely disappear in 300 million years. But it will be a sad moment indeed, whenever it comes.