01:21 GMT +322 July 2019
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    This illustration of NASA's Cassini spacecraft about to make one of its dives between Saturn and its innermost rings as part of the mission's grand finale.

    Scientists Say Saturn Consuming Its Own Rings and They Are Halfway Dead

    © REUTERS / NASA/JPL-Caltech
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    The rings of ice, dust, and other space debris have become a feature of the sixth planet in our solar system, but according to recent findings, they were not always around and probably won't last forever.

    Saturn's iconic rings are gradually being destroyed by the planets gravity and magnetism, research led by James O'Donoghue and published in Icarus science journal says. According to it, there is a possibility that Saturn's rings are just a temporary phenomenon that didn't exist millions of years ago and will be probably gone in another 100 million years.

    Using observations from W. M. Keck Observatory and shots made by Voyager and Cassini, scientists have come to the conclusion that the space debris, of which the rings consist, is slowly being dragged into the planet's atmosphere, where it evaporates without a trace.

    Most of the time, this debris remain in a fragile balance between Saturn's gravity and magnetism on the one side and the centrifugal force of orbital velocity on the other, allowing it to remain in orbit in the form of the famous rings. However, according to the paper, some of this debris occasionally gets electrically charged due to the Sun's rays or other space phenomena, making it susceptible to the planet's magnetic field, which starts disrupting the forces "status quo" and drags the affected objects onto Saturn's surface.

    READ MORE: NASA Develops Outer Space Submarine to Explore Saturn

    The research showed that the rate, at which the rings are being consumed by this phenomenon, is following "the worst case scenario" under which the rings will cease to exist in just 100 million years, which is a minor timeframe by cosmic standards. 

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    celestial body, phenomenon, rings, Saturn
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