How much do you know about Saturn’s rings? Have you ever seen them before through a telescope? Find out more about the rings and how they may have been created!
[Video Description: Alicia, an Asian biracial woman wearing a long-sleeved maroon shirt slightly rolled up with wavy hair and a small front braid. In the background are three plants. On the left is a white bookshelf with various books and trinkets. On the right is a framed art by Nancy Rourke “The Deaf Mind”.
05:15 – A full screen image: This video is sponsored by RIT/NTID Regional STEM Center. Below is a logo of RIT on the left with National Technical Institute for the Deaf on the right.]
Transcript: More than 400 years ago, an astronomer, Galileo, looked through a telescope and saw a planet with rings wrapped around it. He called this planet Saturn. While it is not the only planet with rings, Jupiter, Uranus, and Neptune have rings, Saturn is the brightest and has the largest rings with 7 rings circling the gas planet. Scientists are still unsure how Saturn got its rings and why it is the brightest, but we get a little bit closer to the answer with time. The rings are spinning around Saturn at high speed, and they are mostly made of ice and a bit of rock and dust. These ice, rock, and dust particles range from the size of a grain of sand to the size of a house. It was previously believed that the creation of Saturn and its rings happened around the same time the solar system was created about 4.5 billion years ago. Because we don’t know much about Saturn, NASA sent out the Cassini spacecraft to explore Saturn. One of its missions was to investigate the rings of Saturn. The spacecraft measured how much particles were in the rings and the rate at which the particles come in from the outer solar system and calculated the age of the rings. Using the data, it is now thought that the rings were created around 10 – 100 million years ago, around the time dinosaurs roamed the land. In 2022, a scientist published a paper trying to answer how the rings were formed. They suggested that one of Saturn’s moons, Titan was slowly migrating away from the planet and disturbed another moon of Saturn’s, Chrysalis. This disturbance caused Chrysalis to be thrown off its orbit and got too close to Saturn. As a result, Saturn’s gravity pulled Chrysalis into the planet, and the moon was decimated, with 99% of its pieces crashing into Saturn and 1% creating a ring system around Saturn. However, there are still questions that remain that could continue to change the age of the rings, such as can the rings clean themselves, removing debris and thus giving off the appearance of a younger age? While scientists are still figuring out how exactly the rings are formed and their age, they are certain that Saturn will eventually lose its rings due to the Sun’s radiation and Saturn’s magnetic field. Saturn is currently experiencing “ring rain” where torrents of material are being pulled out and raining down onto the planet. Particles are leaving the rings faster than things are entering. Because of this loss of material, scientists estimate that Saturn will no longer have rings in 100 million years. While we will not lose Saturn’s rings in our lifetime, if you ever come across a telescope, be sure to see the sight of the yellow and pink hue of Saturn’s rings.