What’s the first thing that comes to mind when someone says Neptune? Mercury? Pluto? Nothing exciting. Saturn? RINGS! Everyone knows about the rings. It’s the first planet anyone who gets a telescope for Christmas looks for. It’s the planet that’s hardest to make for a school project, but no one complains because those rings are so darned cool! Bad news, ring fans. NASA just announced that the planet is suffering from something called “ring rain” which is causing the rings to disappear and Saturn will soon be just another Uranus without the funny name jokes.
“We estimate that this ‘ring rain’ drains an amount of water products that could fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool from Saturn’s rings in half an hour.”
James O’Donoghue, NASA researcher and lead author of a new study published in Icarus, puts the ring rain in terms anyone who has been in a swimming pool or collected rainwater in a can can understand. The ring rain was first detected by the Voyager I and II fly-bys. The Cassini probe, which crashed through Saturn’s rings in a blaze of mission-ending glory last year, found that Saturn’s rings, which surprisingly are made of water ice chunks ranging from microscopic to yards in diameter, are actually dropping onto to the planet’s surface in massive hail-like downpours.