Rain falls from Saturn's rings—and a dying spacecraft tasted it
As it plunged to its doom, NASA’s Cassini probe performed final tasks that are revealing secrets about the planet’s famed rings.
It’s raining on Saturn. Each second, the planet’s rings shed perhaps thousands of pounds of water ice, organic molecules, and other tiny particles into the gas giant’s clouds.
Now, scientists are finally getting a good look at the startlingly complex interaction between Saturn and its rings—thanks to NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, which sailed 22 times between the rings and the planet during its last weeks of life, gobbling up ring-rain as it went.
Understanding that complexity is not just an esoteric endeavor. It’s a step toward solving one of the most abiding mysteries of the Saturn system: the origin and age of the solar system’s most famous bangles. Knowing the rings’ composition and the rate at which they’re shedding