Fox News - Saturn’s famous rings are vanishing, so enjoy them while they last. According to NASA scientists, the rings– which are made of mostly of ice and rock, some chunks which are as big as a house– will be completely gone in less than 100 million years.
The planet's gravity is slowly pulling the rings apart, making the eroded ice particles rain down on the planet’s surface as “ring rain.” The new research builds on a few hours of groundbased–observations made from Hawaii in 2011. During those few observed hours, the rain from the rings totaled between 925 and 6000 pounds per second, enough to fill an Olympic–sized pool within half an hour.
The rings stay suspended around Saturn thanks to a carefully balanced push and pull act– the planet’s gravity is trying to pull the particles in, while at the same time their orbital velocity is trying to throw them out into space.
The new study, led by Dr. James O’Donoghue from NASA’s Planetary Megnetospheres Laboratory, describes how sometimes the ring particles become electrically charged by sunlight. Saturn's magnetic field then pulls these charged particles in, where they travel down the magnetic field lines and enter the upper atmosphere. There, the ring particles vaporize and become drops of "ring rain" that glow in infrared light.