This post is by James Davis Nicoll from Tor.com Frontpage Partial - Blog and Story Content
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Carpe diem—seize the day; everything passes quickly away.
We see Saturn’s rings as an abiding feature of the solar system. But if we are to believe “Observations of the chemical and thermal response of ‘ring rain’ on Saturn’s ionosphere,” the rings are transitory. In a mere three hundred million years, less time than has elapsed since the Permian Extinction, the rings may be reduced to wispy remnants of their former glory, like the frail rings we see around Jupiter, Neptune, and other outer planets.
Nor are Saturn’s rings the only marvel slated to vanish in the near future. Mars’ moon Phobos is spiraling inwards toward the planet; it will either form a ring system or impact the surface of Mars. This may happen in fifty million years or so, less time than has elapsed since the more enjoyable Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum.
Consider Earth’s Moon. It is slowly ...