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Saturn to Lose Its Rings

Saturn to Lose Its Rings

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GS 3 ||Science & Technology ||Space ||Miscellaneous

Why in news ? :

  • 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.

Composition and structure:

  • Saturns rings are made up of billions of particles ranging from grains of sand to mountain-size chunks. Composed predominantly of water-ice, the rings also draw in rocky meteoroids as they travel through space.
  • Though Saturn appears surrounded by a single, solid ring when viewed by an amateur astronomer, several divisions exist. The rings are named alphabetically in the order of discovery. Thus the main rings are, from farthest from the planet to closest, A, B and C. A gap 2,920 miles wide (4,700 kilometers), known as the Cassini Division, separates the A and B rings.
  • The rings themselves contain a number of gaps and structures. Some are created by Saturn’s many small moons, while others continue to puzzle to astronomers.

Is it only the Saturn to have rings?

  • Saturn is not the only planet in the solar system to have rings — Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune also contain faint ring systems — but with its satellites spanning three-quarters of the Earth-moon distance (175,000 miles or 282,000 km), it is by far the largest and most visible.

Why do all gas giant planets have Rings ?

  • The outer planets (Jovian planets or gas giants) are Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.
  • The outer planets all have rings but you can only see Saturn’s because Saturn’s ring reflect on the sun and Saturn has the biggest ring in the whole solar system which is 175,000 miles, that is about three quarters from our planet to our moon.
  • Outer planets have rings because they are far away from the sun where there is more debris.

Formation of ring & The Roche Limit :

  • It is the distance from the centre of the celestial body where the tidal forces are so strong that any other celestial body approaching this distance would get deformed instantly and the varying orbital speed would cause it to form a ring around the body.

Exploration of Saturn :

Prelims bits : About Saturn –

  • Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun in our solar system.
  • In terms of size it is the second largest planet after Jupiter.
  • Saturn is named after the Roman god of agriculture.
  • It is composed mostly of hydrogen, and helium.
  • Saturn’s rings for long have been considered as its most dramatic feature.
  • Saturn has at least 62 moons.
  • Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, and the second-largest in the Solar System, is larger than the planet Mercury, although less massive, and is the only moon in the Solar System to have a substantial atmosphere. (Jupiter’s moon GANYMEDE is the largest natural satellite of any planet in the solar system)