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Saturn’s rings will vanish in 2025, but they won’t really be gone

Published Nov 6th, 2023 4:45PM EST
spokes on saturn's rings
Image: NASA, ESA, and Amy Simon (NASA-GSFC); Image Processing: Alyssa Pagan (STScI)

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Saturn’s rings will vanish in 2025, but don’t worry, they’ll return. NASA says that the rings around the planet will appear to disappear completely. However, it’s just an optical illusion created by the planet turning edge-on with Earth. So, while the rings are still technically there, we’ll be facing their side, making it almost impossible to see them.

This particular movement isn’t uncommon or unexpected, either, though. As the planet completes its 29.5-year orbit around the Sun, it turns towards our planet, with the edge of its rings facing outward. Then, after a few years, the rings come back into view as the planet spins more, the rings coming back to face Earth in their entirety.

Webb raw images of Saturn
Saturn floats in space as James Webb captures observations of the planet. Image source: JWST/JWSTFeed

It’s an intriguing and fleeting event that will continue until the Sun explodes, destroying our planet and possibly knocking the orbits of other planets into disarray. So, while Saturn’s rings will vanish in 2025, they’re expected to return to view in 2032, when the planet spins back into the correct orientation.

Saturn’s rings were first discovered by Galileo Galilei in 1610, and they have continued to be an iconic part of our solar system, pulling scientist’s eyes to their beauty with ease. Scientists have studied the rings as best they can from so far away, theorizing about how they came to be, what they are made of, and even what spokes in Saturn’s rings could mean.

With the rings set to vanish in 2025, though, that means you have a bit of a time crunch on how much you can observe the rings over the coming months. If you enjoy skywatching and catching glimpses of Saturn’s rings, I suggest getting in as much viewing time as you can over the next several months, as the rings will vanish and stay “invisible” for over five years once they disappear.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.