The rings of Saturn were first glimpsed by astronomer Galileo Galilei in 1610. With the invention of the first telescope by Hans Lippershey in 1608, our eyes were opened to a whole new world. The rings aren’t visible with the naked eye, but most home telescopes allow you to see them. However, the rings of Saturn are disappearing in the near future.
VIDEOS BY INSPIRE MORE
While it is true that the rings of Saturn will “disappear in 2025,” they aren’t actually going anywhere. Due to planetary rotations, they will be invisible from Earth for a period of time. When the rotations align in a specific way, the seven distinct rings will align with Earth edge-on, making them appear to vanish. Think of it like trying to see a sheet of paper held with the edge facing you from across a football field.
Typically, our view of Saturn is with the rings on a tilt so they are visible. When the rotation adjusts, the rings will be visible again. Saturn’s rotation takes about 29.5 Earth years, so this phenomenon doesn’t occur often. The rings of Saturn will be at an optimal tilt for visibility again in 2032.
Saturn’s rings consist of icy fragments and clouds of cosmic dust. Scientists believe they were initially formed about 400 million years ago. The solar system is about 4.6 billion years old, so the rings of Saturn are technically still in their infancy. They may eventually disappear for real as gravity pulls the debris toward the planet, but that won’t be for quite some time.
The above images from the Hubble Telescope show the progression of tilt from 1996 to 2000. As the rotation paths change, the rings of Saturn are more or less visible from the surface of Earth. Make sure to grab your telescopes and catch a view of the rings of Saturn before they dissapear! After that, you’ll have to wait for quite a while before they’re visible again.
You can find the source of this story’s featured image here.
Want to be happier in just 5 minutes a day? Sign up for Morning Smile and join over 455,000+ people who start each day with good news.