NASA confirms Saturn’s rings will disappear from Earth’s view by 2025
NASA has revealed the famous hoop rings around Saturn will no longer be visible from Earth in just 18 months. We investigate if the change is permanent or not
READING LEVEL: GREEN
Stargazers should enjoy seeing Saturn’s rings while they can.
NASA reports the gas planet’s famous interstellar* hoops are going to vanish from view in 18 months — but thankfully it’s just an optical illusion*.
In March 2025, Saturn’s rings will become invisible from our planet due to Saturn tilting within its axis of orbit*. That’s despite the rings — which extend from 70,000km to 140,000km — being the equivalent of the width of 30 Earths.
Every 13.5 to 15.7 years, Earth sees Saturn on a perfectly horizontal plane*, causing the bands of cosmic* dust to seemingly disappear from our faraway view.
That’s because, despite the huge width of the rings, they measure as thin as 90m in most places — which is nothing considering that Saturn is a staggering* 1200 million kilometres from Earth.
The planet’s tilt is currently angled downward at 9 degrees and will decrease to a barely visible 3.7 degrees in 2024.
When this angle hits zero in March 2025, spotting these celestial* circles will be akin* to seeing “a sheet of paper edge-on when it’s positioned at the far end of a soccer field,” according to Earth.com.
Thankfully, we won’t have to wait long for the rings to return. The sixth rock from the Sun will rotate again, showcasing the other side of its hoops, with the best display occurring in 2032 when the angle of tilt hits 27 degrees.
Saturn has seven distinct rings, which are made of ice, rocky debris and dust.
They’re believed to be the remains of comets, asteroids, and moons that were pulled apart by the planet’s powerful gravitational pull*.
* This article first appeared in the New York Post and is published here with permission.
- interstellar: occurring or located between stars
- optical illusion: when you seem to see something which does not exist or is other than it appears
- axis of orbit: an axis is an imaginary line an object turns around in space
- plane: a flat surface
- cosmic: relating to the universe or cosmos
- staggering: hard to believe
- celestial: relates to the sky and universe
- akin: similar
- gravitational pull: an invisible force that pulls objects toward each other
1. Why will Saturn’s rings disappear from view from Earth?
2. How wide are Saturn’s rings?
3. What are the rings made from?
4. How does NASA think the rings originally formed?
5. When will be the next ideal time to see Saturn’s rings from Earth?
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1. Facts about Saturn
After reading all the amazing information about Saturn in the article, create an informative acrostic poem incorporating some of these facts.
Come up with a short sentence for each letter of the Planet’s name and decorate it for display. Share yours with a classmate.
Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science, Critical and Creative Thinking
Use a protractor to draw the different angles of Saturn’s rings mentioned in the Kids News article. This will help you envision the tilt it’s on.
Time: allow 10 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: Mathematics
1. Saturn’s secrets
Let’s practise creating intriguing story starters inspired by the article about Saturn’s disappearing rings.
Remember, your story starters will be used at the beginning of your story. You’re the author of a cosmic adventure. Use your imagination to create a captivating start to your space exploration tale! Are you ready?!
The galactic exploration begins
Start your adventure by reading the space brief (the article about Saturn’s rings becoming invisible from Earth). This phenomenon is due to Saturn’s tilt, creating an optical illusion and your mission is to confirm this information about Saturn and more.
Imagine you are writing an exciting story about a space adventure. Your story will be about a group of space explorers who discover Saturn’s mysterious rings disappearing. Your task is to create three captivating story starters (openers) for this adventure. In your story starters, use descriptive language to paint a picture of Saturn and its rings. Think about the vastness of space and the feeling of wonder.
Share your story starters with a friend or family member. Ask them which one they find the most interesting and why.
Based on the feedback you received or your personal preference, select your favourite story starter.
Okay explorers, have a go at writing the beginning of your space adventure story using your chosen story starter. Make it exciting and engaging, just like the starters you created. Next, create a simple drawing or illustration related to your story. It could be a scene of space explorers, Saturn, or its rings.
Don’t forget to read back over your space adventure story beginning out loud to check that it makes sense and it is engaging.
Now you are ready to share! Read your story aloud to someone to check if it captures their imagination and makes them curious about what happens next.