back to article Saturn's rings are shrinking and boffins will use the Webb 'scope to find out why

Astronomers will direct NASA's James Webb Space Telescope to peer at Saturn in an attempt to discern when its iconic rings might vanish. Saturn is the most recognizable planet in the Solar System thanks to its extensive rings, comprising uncountable billions of ice and rock chunks that circle the planet's equator at diverse …

  1. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    Alien

    It would be handy

    if the ring fragments could be persuaded to fall somewhere that could really use the water, like Mars. An iceberg an hour for a few hundred years and you'd have an atmosphere and water there again, and it would last as long as the rings before it gets stripped off again.

    Unfortunately, I haven't yet come up with a cunning plan to make the icebergs fall upwards instead of downwards towards Saturn.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It would be handy

      Turn left at Albuquerque?

      1. KittenHuffer Silver badge

        Re: It would be handy

        Bonus point for speeling it corectly!

    2. FrogsAndChips Silver badge

      Re: It would be handy

      You could get some tips from the friendly beings in the Klendathu system.

  2. b0llchit Silver badge
    Angel

    Oh gravity

    Oh gravity. You harsh mistress at work again.

    Time to build a gravity shield to freeze time and keep our rings intact.

    1. KittenHuffer Silver badge
      Angel

      Re: Oh gravity

      I believe the dinosaurs tried that with the rings around Uranus. Unfortunately it went wrong (chicxulub) and 65M years later we get to see what is left of the rings.

      ---------> Smiling gas giant .... surrounded by rings!

    2. KittenHuffer Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Oh gravity

      I think we should discuss the title that should be given to the person in charge of the gravity shield. I think there are several that would suit (Duke, Marquess, Earl,Viscount, Baron, etc.). And I think the project should be extended to protect the rings around Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune as well.

      I just wonder what we would call this person on a day-to-day basis?!?

      1. FrogsAndChips Silver badge

        Re: Oh gravity

        I have no idea what you're Tolkien about.

      2. The commentard formerly known as Mister_C Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Oh gravity

        If the title is to refer to somebody in charge of gravity, the force that causes a pendulum's reciprocal movement, then their title should be The Sultan of Swing.

  3. fpx
    Trollface

    > "leading to development of a theory that Saturn's gravity [...] attracts matter from its rings"

    Have they also concluded yet that Saturn isn't flat?

  4. WaveyDavey

    Measurements

    Pleased to see the El Reg measurement system still holding strong.

  5. adam 40 Silver badge

    In other news

    the rings around Uranus are widening alarmingly!

  6. Sudosu Bronze badge

    My guess

    They will be gone on a Tuesday.

    I'm at least within 7 days for my guess (unless the length of a week changes)

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: My guess

      Don't know if the week will have been decimalised by then, but based on our current definition of the duration of the second, the day will be about 2 hours longer by then.

  7. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    If they're due to disappear in a mere 300m years did this erosion start relatively recently and if not how big were they when they initially formed?

    1. ThatOne Silver badge

      I guess the erosion started right the instant they got created. As about their initial size, rumors have it that their origin is due to the unscheduled disassembly of one or more moons, in which case they initially were just a diffuse cloud of debris of which part immediately fell inwards, the rest settled into what eventually became the rings as we know them.

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