With a telescope magnifying at least twenty times, we can observe the rings of Saturn from the Earth. Always a fascinating sight. It is not a continuous disc but several thousand rings, each with its color linked to the presence of dust with a specific chemical composition. These rings are thin (a few meters) but they extend over a great distance: up to 1 million km in diameter, or three times the Earth-Moon distance.
Although they appear homogeneous and in one piece, these rings are composed of small blocks of ice and stone. Between them is emptiness. The size of these pieces is estimated from centimeter to meter.
Doomed to disappear
Astronomers think the rings have a short lifespan, on the order of 100 million years. The collisions between pieces of ice and the rocks dissipate energy and the rings are doomed to disappear.
Initially, scientists had hypothesized that they were due to the bursting of a natural satellite of Saturn. Today we lean more towards a permanent supply of cosmic dust. But it is not yet known precisely why Saturn has rings.