Saturn is perhaps the most famous planet in the solar system, as it is the planet with rings!
But in just a year and a half, the planet won’t look like it did in our textbooks.
Saturn’s famous rings will disappear from our eyes in less than 18 months, and will not return to their full glory until the 2030s.
This is what NASA tells us CBS News.
Saturn won’t actually lose its rings in 2025, but they will disappear from telescopes on Earth.
This is because Saturn, like Earth, is not usually horizontal with respect to the Sun, but rotates on an axis.
Eventually, the gas giant will lie horizontal to Earth, so the planet’s rings will merge into an almost invisible line in the first half of 2025.
Imagine a leaf, which is very far away:
When the flat side of the paper is facing you, it will be much easier to see. But if you rotate the paper so that only the edge of the paper is facing you, it will be almost impossible to see.
NASA says this event occurs every 15 years due to the tilt of Saturn’s rotation axis.
However, the edge of the ring points directly toward the Sun for two short periods in each of Saturn’s orbits around the Sun. This event, called an equinox, gives equal amounts of sunlight to Saturn’s northern and southern hemispheres for a short period. But Saturn takes about 30 Earth years to orbit the Sun, so the equinox only happens once every 15 years.
The last time Saturn experienced such an equinox was in 2009.
The rings will gradually become visible again as Saturn’s south pole tilts toward our planet, and the best view of the planet will peak in 2032.
NASA says Saturn’s rotation should make it easier for stargazers to spot some of the 140 moons orbiting the giant planet.
Research conducted by the US Space Agency in 2018 revealed that the entire ring system, which extends for about 280,000 kilometers, will disappear completely within 300 million years.
The reason is that the ice and dust particles that make up the rings are slowly but surely pulled into Saturn’s atmosphere due to the planet’s enormous gravity.
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