Why It's Raining On Saturn

According to a new study published in this week's Nature, icy particles inside the rings erode into the upper atmosphere and eventually form rain water that falls on parts of the planet.

What's the Latest Development?


With the help of super-clear images from Hawaii's Keck Observatory, scientists from the UK and the US have found a connection between some of the icier parts of Saturn's rings and darker regions on the planet's surface. That connection appears to be rain. Magnetic field lines linking the two areas "creates a pathway for small ice particles in the rings to slough off into the planet's atmosphere," resulting in rain. The details of the team's research appear in this week's issue of Nature.

What's the Big Idea?

Most of what makes up Saturn's rings are small boulders, but the way in which the rings have evolved has never been fully determined. Astrophysicist Jack Connerney writes in Nature that, over time, "[m]ass is transferred from one boulder to next, and while it's transferred, [the particles are] vulnerable to erosion mechanisms." This helps explain how those parts of the rings that are made up of ice eventually erode into particles that fall to the surface as rain. The magnetic field responsible for the rain may also contribute to the density and composition of each ring.

Photo Credit: NASA/JPL

Read it at Space.com

Big Think Edge
  • The meaning of the word 'confidence' seems obvious. But it's not the same as self-esteem.
  • Confidence isn't just a feeling on your inside. It comes from taking action in the world.
  • Join Big Think Edge today and learn how to achieve more confidence when and where it really matters.

To boost your self-esteem, write about chapters of your life

If you're lacking confidence and feel like you could benefit from an ego boost, try writing your life story.

Personal Growth

In truth, so much of what happens to us in life is random – we are pawns at the mercy of Lady Luck. To take ownership of our experiences and exert a feeling of control over our future, we tell stories about ourselves that weave meaning and continuity into our personal identity.

Keep reading Show less

Active ingredient in Roundup found in 95% of studied beers and wines

The controversial herbicide is everywhere, apparently.

(MsMaria/Shutterstock)
Surprising Science
  • U.S. PIRG tested 20 beers and wines, including organics, and found Roundup's active ingredient in almost all of them.
  • A jury on August 2018 awarded a non-Hodgkin's lymphoma victim $289 million in Roundup damages.
  • Bayer/Monsanto says Roundup is totally safe. Others disagree.
Keep reading Show less

Ashes of cat named Pikachu to be launched into space

A space memorial company plans to launch the ashes of "Pikachu," a well-loved Tabby, into space.

GoFundMe/Steve Munt
Culture & Religion
  • Steve Munt, Pikachu's owner, created a GoFundMe page to raise money for the mission.
  • If all goes according to plan, Pikachu will be the second cat to enter space, the first being a French feline named Felicette.
  • It might seem frivolous, but the cat-lovers commenting on Munt's GoFundMe page would likely disagree.
Keep reading Show less