In 2025, it appears that Saturn’s rings will no longer be visible due to the planet’s rotation on its axis. However, NASA has confirmed to CBS News that Saturn will not actually lose its rings, but they will instead be positioned in a way that they are undetectable to humans on Earth.
According to Amy Simon, a senior scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, the rings of Saturn will only be partially visible during the time before and after they align edge-on. If you want to view Saturn on different dates, you can utilize the PDS rings node.
Vahe Peroomian, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Southern California, explained via email to CBS News that due to Earth’s 26.7 degree tilted axis, the appearance of its rings changes over time.
Researchers have examined the rings and the Cassini-Huygens mission by NASA concluded that the rings were probably created approximately 100 million years ago, which is considered relatively recent in terms of space, according to Peroomian.
According to him, even compact telescopes can provide a glimpse of Saturn’s rings when they are not positioned on its edge. “Last week, the students in my astronomy course at USC were able to see Saturn through a telescope and the rings were quite apparent.”
Following its edge-on position in 2025, the rings will become visible a few months after.
According to NASA, Saturn, a gas giant with a 4 billion year history, is not the sole planet with rings, but it does possess the most impressive and intricate ones.
NASA reported in 2018 that its Voyager 1 and 2 missions had verified previous predictions that Saturn’s rings are diminishing. According to NASA, the rings are being drawn towards Saturn due to gravitational forces, as ice particles fall under the influence of Saturn’s magnetic field.
According to James O’Donoghue from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, the phenomenon known as “ring rain” produces enough water to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool every 30 minutes. This could potentially lead to the disappearance of Saturn’s rings in 300 million years. The Cassini spacecraft has also discovered that material from the rings is falling into the planet’s equator, which could speed up their disappearance to 100 million years.
Saturn has a rotation period of 10.7 hours, and it takes approximately 29.4 Earth years for it to complete one orbit around the sun. Similar to Earth, Saturn goes through seasonal changes due to its rotations on an axis.