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  • 14 November, 2023

  • 2 Min Read

Disappearance of Saturn’s Rings

Recently, scientists revealed that in 2025, Saturn will align edge-on with Earth, rendering its splendid rings virtually invisible.

Saturn is the 6th planet from the Sun, 2nd largest in the solar system after Jupiter and a gas giant composed primarily of hydrogen and helium. It has radius about 9 times that of Earth, although it has a low density and is only about 95 times more massive than Earth.

  • Saturn’s Rings – It is primarily ice particles with a smaller fraction of rocky debris and dust ranging from micrometres to meters in size that spreads out over 280,000km from the planet.
  • 7 distinct rings are named as A, B, C, D, E, F, and G rings with varying transparency and brightness.

In 1610, Galileo Galilei, renowned as the pioneer of modern astronomy, 1st laid eyes upon the magnificent rings of Saturn.

  • Origin – May be from remnants of comets, asteroids, and moons which were ripped apart by the planet’s immense gravitational pull.
  • It is younger than a tenth of Saturn’s own age.
  • Rings orbit – Directly above Saturn’s equator and so they are tilted to the plane of Saturn’s orbit.

While Earth’s equator is tilted by 23.5 degrees, Saturn’s equator has a 26.7 degree tilt and so just like Earth, Saturn experiences seasons, but more than 29 times longer than ours.

  • Disappearance – As Saturn tilts, its rings will seem to vanish due to the planet’s tilt and Earth’s perspective.
  • As the seasons on Saturn progress, the southern side of the rings tilted Earth’s way to the northern side and then, the planet tips back to reveal the southern side once more.
  • When it is edge-on, the rings appear to vanish seen from a distance as they are so thin.
  • Twice per Saturnian year (29.4 Earth Year), we see the rings edge on and they all but vanish from Earth’s view point.

The last time Saturn’s rings seem to be invisible was in 2009 and it gradually became visible again. Now, the rings will be edge on once again in March 2025 and they’ll gradually come back into view, before sliding out of view again in November 2025.


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