Space's Deepest Secrets (2016–…): Season 5, Episode 3 - Journey to Saturn's Rings - full transcript

New discoveries are changing everything we know about Saturn's rings, revealing that they're newer and more mysterious than we ever imagined, and that some day soon, they might disappear forever.

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---
Narrator: SATURN'S RINGS --

THESE COSMIC WONDERS
HAVE BOTH DAZZLED

AND BAFFLED ASTRONOMERS
FOR CENTURIES.

NOW NEW DISCOVERIES ARE SET
TO REVEAL THE TRUE STORY

OF THESE ENIGMATIC STRUCTURES.

WHEN YOU HEAR THE WORD "SATURN,"
THE FIRST THING YOU THINK OF

ARE THESE BEAUTIFUL RINGS,
AND THEY'VE BEEN MYSTERIOUS

SINCE THE VERY FIRST TIME
HUMANITY OBSERVED THEM.

WHERE DID THEY COME FROM?

HOW OLD ARE THEY?

Narrator: ASTONISHING
NEW EVIDENCE SUGGESTS



SATURN'S RINGS ARE
BREATHTAKINGLY YOUNG,

BORN DURING THE AGE
OF DINOSAURS.

THE SOLAR SYSTEM'S PRETTY OLD.

IT'S 4.5 BILLION YEARS OLD.

IF THE RINGS HAVE
ONLY BEEN AROUND

FOR TENS OF MILLIONS OF YEARS

OR A HUNDRED MILLION YEARS,
THAT'S WEIRD.

Narrator: HOW AND WHY DID
THE RINGS APPEAR SO SUDDENLY?

AND COULD THEY DISAPPEAR
JUST AS QUICKLY AS THEY FORMED?

PEOPLE SAY
NOTHING LASTS FOREVER,

ESPECIALLY IF IT'S A GOOD THING.

WELL, SATURN'S RINGS --
THEY MAY NOT LAST FOREVER.

Narrator: NOW SCIENTISTS BATTLE
TO UNDERSTAND

HOW SATURN'S RINGS
GOT TO BE THERE...



Man: START THE LASER.

Narrator:
...WHAT THEIR DESTINY IS,

AND WHETHER THERE'S MORE TO THEM
THAN MEETS THE EYE.

♪♪

CAPTIONS PAID FOR BY
DISCOVERY COMMUNICATIONS

SATURN'S RINGS -- THE CROWN
JEWELS OF THE SOLAR SYSTEM,

SPANNING ALMOST 175,000 MILES.

BUT A CLOSER LOOK REVEALS THAT
THEY'RE EXTREMELY DELICATE --

IN MOST PLACES,
ONLY 32 FEET THICK.

INSIDE THEM, ICE --
BILLIONS OF PARTICLES,

FROM SUPERFINE FROZEN DUST

TO HUGE CHUNKS
THE SIZE OF ICEBERGS.

BETWEEN THE RINGS ARE STRANGE
GAPS WHERE MOONS FEAST ON ICE.

♪♪

THIS INCREDIBLE STRUCTURE
SEEMS PERFECT

AND ETERNAL.

BUT APPEARANCES
CAN BE DECEIVING.

♪♪

SCIENTISTS USED TO THINK
THE RINGS

WERE AS OLD AS SATURN ITSELF.

BUT WHEN A SPACE PROBE
CALLED CASSINI VISITS SATURN,

IT REVEALS
AN UNCOMFORTABLE TRUTH --

SATURN'S RINGS
ARE FAR TOO CLEAN.

THE RINGS OF SATURN
ARE SO BRIGHT AND BEAUTIFUL

BECAUSE THEY'RE MADE
OF TRILLIONS OF PARTICLES

OF PRISTINE ICE.

THE ICE ITSELF IS
ACTUALLY NOT VERY DIRTY.

IT'S VERY, VERY REFLECTIVE.

YOU ALMOST HAVE THIS
BEAUTIFUL MIRROR AROUND SATURN.

AND IF THE RINGS ARE OLD,
WHY ARE THEY STILL SO CLEAN?

♪♪

Narrator: NICOLAS ALTOBELLI IS
TRYING TO UNRAVEL THIS MYSTERY.

♪♪

IF THE RINGS ARE CLEAN,
COULD THAT BE

BECAUSE THERE ISN'T
MUCH DIRT AROUND SATURN?

NICOLAS IS TRYING TO FIND OUT
HOW MUCH DIRT FALLS

ONTO SATURN'S RINGS.

DIRT IN SPACE
IS KNOWN AS COSMIC DUST.

AND NICOLAS MEASURES
COSMIC DUST WITH AN INSTRUMENT

THAT'S KEPT UNDER LOCK AND KEY

IN A HYPER-CLEAN LAB
IN THE UNIVERSITY OF STUTTGART.

THIS IS OUR COSMIC DUST
ANALYZER INSTRUMENTS.

Narrator: IT'S A PERFECT REPLICA
OF THE COSMIC DUST ANALYZER

ON THE CASSINI SPACE PROBE.

♪♪

THIS INSTRUMENT IS MADE
TO DETECT DUST PARTICLES --

SMALL GRAINS OF MATTER

WHICH ARE
AS TINY AS A HUMAN HAIR

UP TO MAYBE A FEW TIMES
THE SIZE OF A GRAIN OF SAND.

♪♪

Narrator:
CASSINI'S COSMIC DUST ANALYZER

MEASURES THE DUST STREAMING

INTO THE SATURNIAN SYSTEM
OVER 13 YEARS.

NICOLAS ANALYZES THE RESULTS,

AND WHAT HE FINDS IS STAGGERING.

NOT ONLY IS COSMIC DUST

DEFINITELY FALLING
ONTO THE RINGS,

IT'S DOING IT 10 TIMES
FASTER THAN ANYBODY THOUGHT.

AFTER MEASURING THE TRUE
ABUNDANCE OF THE DUST

FAR AWAY FROM SATURN,

WE ARE ABLE TO DERIVE
A 10-TIMES-HIGHER FLUX

AT THE RINGS THAN
PREVIOUSLY EXPECTED.

♪♪

Narrator: BUT IF SO MUCH DUST
HAS BEEN PULLED INTO THEM

OVER THE YEARS,

HOW ARE THEY SO BRIGHT
AND CLEAN?

IF THE RINGS FORMED WITH SATURN
4.5 BILLION YEARS AGO,

THEY SHOULD BE MUCH DARKER.

THE INESCAPABLE CONCLUSION
IS THAT THE RINGS ARE YOUNG,

SERIOUSLY YOUNG.

FROM OUR DATA,
THE RING ARE A HUNDRED

OR A FEW HUNDRED
MILLIONS OF YEARS.

IT'S WELL POSSIBLE THAT
THE DINOSAURS COULD HAVE

WITNESSED THE FORMATION
OF THE RINGS.

Narrator: 100 MILLION YEARS
IS PHENOMENALLY YOUNG.

SATURN IS 4.5 BILLION YEARS OLD.

IF NICOLAS IS RIGHT,
SATURN HAS ONLY HAD RINGS

FOR A FRACTION OF ITS LIFE.

WE THINK OF THE PLANETS
AS HAVING BEEN AROUND

FOR 100% OF THE TIME
OF THE SOLAR SYSTEM.

WELL, SATURN'S RINGS?

THEY'VE ONLY BEEN AROUND
FOR THE LAST 2%

OF THE SOLAR SYSTEM'S AGE,
SO THEY'RE VERY NEW.

♪♪

Narrator:
BUT IF THE RINGS ARE SO YOUNG,

HOW DID THEY FORM?

THEY'RE MADE OF BILLIONS
OF TINY PARTICLES,

LIKE SHRAPNEL
FROM SOME VIOLENT EVENT.

BUT WHAT VIOLENT EVENT?

AND WHY AND WHEN DID IT HAPPEN?

♪♪

AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA,

PHYSICIST ERIK ASPHAUG USES
COMPUTER SIMULATIONS

TO INVESTIGATE
WHAT THIS EVENT WAS.

HE BELIEVES CLUES CAN BE FOUND
IN THE MOONS

THAT SURROUND SATURN TODAY.

Asphaug:
THE SATURN SYSTEM IS UNIQUE

OF ALL THE PLANETARY SYSTEMS.

GO BEYOND THE RINGS AND YOU GET
THESE MIDDLE-SIZED ICY MOONS.

AND THEN SUDDENLY YOU HAVE
THE GIANT MOON, TITAN.

Narrator: SATURN HAS A VAST
NUMBER OF MOONS -- 62.

THEY'RE ALL FAIRLY SMALL,
EXCEPT ONE --

TITAN -- THAT'S HUGE.

IF YOU WERE TO PUT ALL 61 OF
SATURN'S OTHER MOONS TOGETHER,

THEY'D STILL BE SMALLER
THAN TITAN.

AND FOR THEORISTS LIKE ERIK,
THAT SEEMS ODD.

HOW DID SATURN GET
ONE MASSIVE MOON

AND A WHOLE SERIES
OF SMALLER ONES?

ONE OF THE IDEAS THAT I'VE PUT
FORWARD IS THAT IT GOT

TO BE THAT WAY
THROUGH A SERIES OF COLLISIONS.

♪♪

AND WHAT WE'RE LOOKING AT NOW
ARE THE BYPRODUCTS

OF A SERIES
OF COLLISIONS THAT FORMED TITAN,

AND IT GREW COLLISION
BY COLLISION,

SPINNING OFF
ALL THESE FRAGMENTS.

AND THAT SET UP A MESSY,
COMPLEX SYSTEM

THAT LEADS TO RING FORMATION
ALMOST AS A CASCADE OF EVENTS.

♪♪

Narrator: THE EARLY SOLAR SYSTEM
WAS AN UNSTABLE PLACE,

AND VERY DIFFERENT
THAN IT IS TODAY.

THE PLANETS WERE IN DIFFERENT,
CHANGING ORBITS,

AND SATURN HAD ONLY
A HANDFUL OF MOONS.

COULD THOSE MOONS HAVE COLLIDED
AND FORMED HUGE TITAN

AND SATURN'S OTHER,
SMALLER MOONS?

♪♪

SO WHAT YOU'RE LOOKING AT HERE
IS ONE OF OUR SIMULATIONS,

WHICH HAS AN ICY MOON
AND ANOTHER ICY MOON.

AND SO HERE WE GO.

AND THESE TWO SATELLITES
WILL MERGE,

AND IT'S A REAL MESS BECAUSE
THEY DON'T MERGE RIGHT AWAY.

THEY BOUNCE,
AND THEN THEY BOUNCE

WITH A LITTLE BIT LESS ENERGY,
AND THEY KEEP SPINNING UP.

SO WHEN ALL IS SAID AND DONE,
YOU'VE FORMED TITAN.

IT'S AN ICY, ROCKY BODY.

AND YOU END UP WITH A WHOLE
FOREST OF NEW MOONS OF SATURN.

Narrator:
ERIK'S SIMULATION SHOWS THAT

THE VIOLENCE OF TITAN'S BIRTH

SPAWNED MANY OTHER,
MUCH SMALLER MOONS.

AND THE BEHAVIOR OF THESE
SMALL MOONS HOLDS THE KEY

TO HOW SATURN'S RINGS FORM.

THE MOONS PULL ON EACH OTHER.

THEY CROSS EACH OTHER'S PATHS
UNTIL, BILLIONS OF YEARS LATER,

TWO OF THEM GET TOO CLOSE.

THEY SPIRAL TOGETHER
AND COLLIDE,

EJECTING VAST
STREAMS OF ICY MATERIAL.

♪♪

SATURN'S GRAVITY GRABS
THE SHATTERED MOON FRAGMENTS

AND PULLS THEM
TOWARDS THE PLANET.

TRAPPED IN ORBIT,

THE ICY SHRAPNEL
SPREADS INTO A THICK HALO.

♪♪

OVER TIME, COLLIDING PARTICLES

FLATTEN THE HALO
INTO A DELICATE DISC,

EVENTUALLY FORMING THE RINGS
THAT WE SEE TODAY.

♪♪

WHEN WE LOOK AT
SATURN'S RINGS FROM EARTH,

THEY LOOK FAIRLY STATIC.

THEY'RE JUST THE WAY THEY ARE.

NOW THAT WE'VE SEEN THEM
UP CLOSE,

WE SEE IT'S AN INCREDIBLY
DYNAMIC SYSTEM

EVOLVING ALL THE TIME.

♪♪

Narrator:
A SERIES OF CATACLYSMIC EVENTS

CREATED THE RINGS
THAT WE SEE TODAY.

BUT WHAT IF THE FORMATION OF
THE RINGS ISN'T THE FINAL LINK

IN THIS CHAIN OF VIOLENT EVENTS?

Thaller: ONE OF THE AMAZING
THINGS IS WE THINK

THIS MIGHT BE
SOMETHING OF A CYCLE.

MAYBE OVER TIME THE RINGS
WILL ACTUALLY CONGEAL

AND FORM MOONS AGAIN.

MAYBE SATURN'S BEEN DOING THIS
FOR QUITE A WHILE.

Narrator: ARE SATURN'S BRIGHT,
SHINING RINGS DESTINED TO DIE?

SCIENTISTS SCRAMBLE
TO FIND ANSWERS.

DOES AN ICE-GUZZLING MOON

IN THE OUTER EDGES OF THE RINGS
HINT AT THEIR ULTIMATE FATE?

OR HAVE THE WORLD'S MOST
POWERFUL TELESCOPES

ALREADY WITNESSED THE BEGINNING
OF A VERY DIFFERENT END?

♪♪

♪♪

Narrator: NEW EVIDENCE SUGGESTS

THAT SATURN'S RINGS
ARE ASTONISHINGLY YOUNG.

THEY COULD HAVE FORMED
JUST 100 MILLION YEARS AGO,

DURING THE AGE OF THE DINOSAURS.

THIS DISCOVERY CREATES A NEW
UNSOLVED MYSTERY --

IF THE RINGS ARE RECENT
ADDITIONS TO OUR SOLAR SYSTEM,

MIGHT THEY CEASE TO EXIST
JUST AS ABRUPTLY AS THEY BEGAN?

ONE POSSIBLE ANSWER LURKS
IN THE FAMOUS DARK GAPS

THAT ARE PEPPERED
THROUGHOUT THE RINGS.

DO THESE GAPS SUGGEST THAT
SOMETHING IS EATING THE RINGS

FROM THE INSIDE?

THE CASSINI PROBE TAKES A CLOSER
LOOK AND CAPTURES SIGHT

OF ONE OF THE WEIRDEST OBJECTS
ASTRONOMERS HAVE EVER SEEN --

A TINY, MISSHAPEN MOON
CALLED PAN.

♪♪

EVEN AMONG SATURN'S BIZARRE
ZOO OF MOONS, PAN STANDS OUT

BECAUSE IT DOESN'T LOOK LIKE
JUST A LUMP OF ROCK

AND ICE, LIKE MOST OF THEM DO.

IT LOOKS LIKE A RAVIOLI.

♪♪

Narrator: HIDING IN THE OUTER
REACHES OF SATURN'S RINGS,

PAN'S WEIRDNESS ONLY
BECOMES CLEAR WHEN CLOSE UP.

JUST 17 MILES ACROSS,

PAN HURTLES AROUND SATURN
AT 37,000 MILES PER HOUR.

IT CRASHES INTO ANY ICE
IN ITS PATH,

ADDING TO ITS BULGING WAISTLINE

AS IT PLOWS THROUGH AN ENORMOUS
200-MILE GAP IN SATURN'S RINGS.

♪♪

LITTLE PAN ISN'T THE ONLY MOON
DESTROYING RING PARTICLES

AS IT SPEEDS AROUND SATURN.

PAN ISN'T ALONE
IN ITS EITHER WEIRD SHAPE

OR THE FACT THAT IT'S GOBBLING
UP AND ACCRETING RING PARTICLES.

WE KNOW AT LEAST
ONE OTHER MOON IS,

AND THEY LOOK
ACTUALLY VERY SIMILAR.

BOTH THESE MOONS MOVE
THROUGH THE RINGS

CREATING LARGE GAPS
IN THE RING SYSTEM.

Narrator:
DATA FROM THE CASSINI PROBE

SUGGESTS THAT MULTIPLE
SMALL MOONS,

OR MOONLETS, ARE CREATING HOLES
IN THE RINGS.

WILL MOONLETS EVENTUALLY GOBBLE
UP ALL THE RING PARTICLES?

♪♪

PHYSICIST JURGEN BLUM
INVESTIGATES THIS MYSTERY

INSIDE THIS 490-FOOT-TALL TOWER
IN BREMEN, GERMANY.

♪♪

THIS TOWER DOES SOMETHING
VERY SPECIAL --

IT GIVES JURGEN
A ZERO-GRAVITY ENVIRONMENT.

AND IT DOES IT THAT SIMPLY,
BY LETTING THINGS FALL.

♪♪

INSIDE THIS TOWER,
JURGEN CAN ACTUALLY CREATE

HIS OWN SMALL SLICE
OF SATURN'S RINGS

AND SEE HOW THE ICY PARTICLES
IN IT BEHAVE.

HOW EASILY DO RING PARTICLES
TURN INTO ICE-GOBBLING MOONLETS?

♪♪

Blum: SATURN'S RINGS' PARTICLES
ARE IN FREE FALL AROUND SATURN,

LIKE THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE
STATION IS AROUND THE EARTH.

THIS IS WHY WE'RE USING
THE DROP TOWER HERE.

WE ARE IN FREE FALL.
WE ARE IN ZERO GRAVITY.

♪♪

Narrator: JURGEN BUILDS HIS OWN
PARTICLES TO EXPERIMENT WITH --

ICE BALLS THE SIZE
OF SMALL RING PARTICLES.

HE MAKES THEM IN THE DROP
TOWER'S FREEZER.

Blum: WHAT WE'RE SEEING HERE
IS OUR ICE BALLS.

THEY ARE 2 CENTIMETERS
IN DIAMETER,

ROUGHLY RESEMBLING
THE SMALLEST PIECES

OF THE MAIN RINGS OF SATURN.

WE INTRODUCE THESE ICE BALLS
INTO A CONTAINER

AND BRING THEM TO COLLISION
UNDER ZERO GRAVITY.

Narrator: AT BREMEN, THE TEAM
PACKS EXPERIMENTS LIKE JURGEN'S

INTO STANDARD CAPSULES THAT
PERFECTLY FIT THE DROP SHAFT.

INSIDE THE CAPSULES,

A HIGH-SPEED CAMERA
RECORDS WHAT HAPPENS.

Blum: WE'RE IN THE BIG PART
OF THE CHAMBER

WHICH IS AT THE BOTTOM
OF THE DROP TOWER.

THE ENGINEERS ARE NOW
CLOSING THE CAPSULE,

BECAUSE IN THE DROP TOWER,

THERE WILL BE A VACUUM,
SO AIR WILL BE OUT.

BUT INSIDE THE CAPSULE,
THE AIR IS STILL IN

SO THAT ALL THE INSTRUMENTS
OPERATE UNDER NORMAL CONDITIONS.

Narrator: SURPRISINGLY,
EACH OF JURGEN'S DROPS

STARTS AT THE BOTTOM
OF THE TOWER, NOT THE TOP.

THE CAPSULE IS PUT
INTO A CATAPULT.

THE CATAPULT ACCELERATES
THE CAPSULE UPWARD,

WHICH GIVES US
ZERO-GRAVITY FLIGHT,

FOLLOWED BY DOWNWARD
ZERO-GRAVITY TIME.

♪♪

Man: COULD YOU FIRE DOWN
THE WIND POLE?

Narrator: IN THE CONTROL ROOM,

TECHNICIANS
COUNT DOWN TO LAUNCH.

AFTER LAUNCH, THE CAPSULES
WILL BE IN FREE FALL

FOR NINE SECONDS,
ENOUGH TIME FOR JURGEN

TO SEE IF ICE PARTICLES
STICK TO EACH OTHER,

TURNING INTO MOONS
AND DESTROYING THE RINGS.

Man: 3, 2, 1...

Narrator: WITHOUT AIR RESISTANCE
TO GET IN THE WAY,

THE CAPSULE STAYS IN FREE FALL
ALL THE WAY UP...

Woman: IT'S DROPPING.

Narrator: ...AND THEN
ALL THE WAY DOWN THE TOWER,

UNTIL IT CRASHES
INTO STYROFOAM BEADS.

JURGEN LOADS UP THE DATA FROM
HIS LAST DROP TOWER EXPERIMENT

WITH THE ICE BALLS.
-HERE WE GO.

Narrator: THE EXPERIMENT TELLS
JURGEN THAT THE SPEED

AT WHICH THE ICE
PARTICLES COLLIDE IS CRUCIAL.

WHEN ICE PARTICLES
COLLIDE SLOWLY,

THEY STICK AND START
TO FORM A MOONLET.

WE THINK THIS IS THE INITIATION
OF A MOONLET FORMING PROCESS,

SO MOONLETS GROW
BY STICKING COLLISIONS

AND BECOME BIGGER AND BIGGER.

Narrator:
BUT IF THE COLLISION IS FAST,

THE PARTICLES DON'T STICK.

THEY BOUNCE.

Blum: SO THIS PARTICLE HERE
NOW BOUNCES, BOUNCES AGAIN,

AND BOUNCES A THIRD TIME.

Narrator:
THE RESULT IS SIGNIFICANT

BECAUSE RING PARTICLES
MOVE AT DIFFERENT SPEEDS.

♪♪

THOSE CLOSE TO SATURN TRAVEL
FAR FASTER

THAN THOSE FURTHER OUT,
AND JURGEN BELIEVES

THAT THIS AFFECTS
HOW BIG A MOONLET CAN GROW.

♪♪

INSIDE SATURN'S RINGS,
CHUNKS OF ICE COLLIDE AND CLUMP

TOGETHER TO FORM
AN EMBRYONIC MOONLET.

BUT AS THE EMBRYONIC
MOONLET GROWS,

IT STRETCHES FURTHER AND FURTHER
ACROSS LANES OF ICE

MOVING AT DIFFERENT SPEEDS.

THIS MEANS ITS COLLISIONS
WITH ICY RING PARTICLES

GET FASTER AND FASTER,

STOPPING ITS GROWTH BUT ALSO
SMASHING THE MOONLET APART.

♪♪

THIS PROCESS KILLS THE MOONLET
BUT RETURNS THE STOLEN ICE,

LETTING THE RINGS LIVE AGAIN.

♪♪

IT'S ALMOST LIKE THEY'RE IN
THE CENTER LANE OF A FREEWAY.

ON ONE SIDE,
THERE ARE SLOWER CARS.

ON THE OTHER SIDE,
THERE ARE FASTER CARS.

AND IF YOU GROW TOO LARGE,

YOU START IMPACTING
THE SLOWER ONES

AND THE FASTER ONES
AT THE SAME TIME,

AND THAT'S GOING TO
KIND OF SPIN YOU AROUND

AND EVENTUALLY DESTROY YOU.

Narrator: THANKS TO THIS
CUTTING-EDGE DROP TOWER,

SCIENTISTS ARE CONVINCED

THAT MOONLETS
ARE UNLIKELY TO KILL THE RINGS.

BUT THERE ARE OTHER KILLERS
OUT THERE.

COULD THE BRINGER OF LIFE
TO EARTH -- SUNLIGHT --

BE DESTROYING THE RINGS?

AND COULD JETS SHOOTING OUT
FROM THIS TINY MOON

BE BUILDING A NEW SET
OF RINGS FOR SATURN?

♪♪

♪♪

NEW RESEARCH SUGGESTS
SATURN WAS BORN NAKED.

THE BRIGHT, SHINING RINGS WE SEE
TODAY COULD'VE APPEARED

DURING THE TIME
OF THE DINOSAURS,

WHEN SATURN WAS ALREADY OVER
4 BILLION YEARS OLD.

SCIENTISTS RACE TO DISCOVER
WHETHER THE RINGS ARE ON A PATH

TO DESTRUCTION.

EXPERIMENTS SHOW THAT GROWING
MOONLETS ARE MOSTLY HARMLESS,

BUT MOONLETS
AREN'T THE ONLY DANGER.

WE'RE PRETTY LUCKY TO LIVE IN
THIS VERY NARROW TIME IN HISTORY

WHEN WE CAN LOOK TO SATURN
AND SEE THESE MAGNIFICENT RINGS.

THEY WEREN'T ALWAYS THERE,

AND THEY MAY NOT
ALWAYS BE THERE.

♪♪

Narrator: 2 1/2 MILES UP

ON THE SUMMIT OF
MAUNA KEA VOLCANO IN HAWAII,

PLANETARY SCIENTIST
JAMES O'DONOGHUE

USES ONE OF THE WORLD'S

MOST ADVANCED GROUND-BASED
TELESCOPES,

THE KECK TELESCOPE,
TO PROBE SATURN'S SECRETS.

♪♪

JAMES BELIEVES THERE'S
A THREAT TO THE RINGS,

AND HE WANTS TO KNOW
HOW SERIOUS IT IS.

O'Donoghue:
THE SUNLIGHT IS VERY STRONG.

Narrator: SUNLIGHT STREAMS
THROUGH THE SOLAR SYSTEM

AND BOUNCES OFF SATURN'S RINGS,

GIVING US
AN AMAZING VIEW OF THEM.

BUT JAMES THINKS THAT SUNLIGHT
DOES MORE THAN

JUST LET US SEE THE RINGS.

HE THINKS THAT SUNLIGHT
DESTROYS THEM.

♪♪

I'VE BEEN USING THIS MONSTER FOR
SEVERAL YEARS TO OBSERVE SATURN.

WE NEED A HUGE TELESCOPE
LIKE THIS ONE

SO THAT WE CAN SEE
THE FINE DETAILS,

WHICH WE COULDN'T SEE
WITH OTHER TELESCOPES.

Narrator: KECK'S ENORMOUS MIRROR
HELPS IT IMAGE

INCREDIBLY DIM
AND DISTANT OBJECTS.

O'Donoghue:
THIS GIANT 10-METER MIRROR

IS ACTUALLY COMPOSED
OF 36 INDIVIDUAL SEGMENTS.

THESE ACT COLLECTIVELY
AS ONE GIANT MIRROR.

IT'S NICE TO THINK OF THE LIGHT
BEING UNINTERRUPTED FROM SATURN

ALL THE WAY THROUGH SPACE,

ALL THE WAY THROUGH ALL OF THIS
INTO THE INSTRUMENT HERE.

Narrator:
BUT IT'S NOT VISIBLE LIGHT

THAT JAMES IS INTERESTED IN.

HE'S LOOKING FOR SOMETHING HE
CAN ONLY SEE IN INFRARED LIGHT,

AND IT WILL TELL HIM HOW QUICKLY
SUNLIGHT IS EATING UP THE RINGS.

O'Donoghue: INFRARED IS A LONGER
WAVELENGTH OF RED LIGHT,

SO JUST OFF
THE VISIBLE SPECTRUM.

SO THAT'S WHY WE NEED
INSTRUMENTATION LIKE THIS

TO SEE IT.

♪♪

Narrator:
JAMES AND HIS TEAM

MAKE A BREAKTHROUGH
OBSERVATION HERE.

HE SPOTS BRIGHT BANDS
OF INFRARED LIGHT

ENCIRCLING SATURN.

JAMES THINKS THEY'RE EVIDENCE
OF SATURN'S RINGS

BEING DESTROYED
IN FRONT OF OUR EYES.

SUNLIGHT SMASHES INTO
ICY RING PARTICLES,

GIVING THEM
AN ELECTRIC CHARGE.

SATURN'S POWERFUL MAGNETIC FIELD

KICKS THE CHARGED ICE PARTICLES
OUT OF THEIR SAFE ORBITS,

LETTING GRAVITY GRAB THEM.

THE ICY PARTICLES SPIRAL ALONG
SATURN'S MAGNETIC FIELD LINES

AWAY FROM THE RINGS.

THEY RAIN DOWN ON
SATURN'S ATMOSPHERE,

AND WHERE THEY LAND, A BRIGHT
BAND OF INFRARED LIGHT GLOWS.

♪♪

THE HARDER THE SPIRALING
RAIN FALLS,

THE BRIGHTER THE BANDS SHINE,

REVEALING JUST HOW QUICKLY
THE RINGS

ARE DRAINING INTO SATURN.

PARTICLES FROM THE RING
ARE RAINING DOWN

ONTO THE SURFACE
OF SATURN ITSELF.

WATER FROM THE RINGS IS ACTUALLY
FOLLOWING THE MAGNETIC FIELD

OF SATURN DOWN
INTO THE UPPER CLOUDS.

♪♪

Narrator: JAMES STUDIES
HIS LATEST RESULTS

TO SEE HOW LONG
THE RINGS HAVE LEFT TO LIVE.

O'Donoghue:
HERE WE HAVE AN IMAGE OF SATURN.

THIS BRIGHT LINE
ACROSS THE MIDDLE HERE

IS ACTUALLY
THE REFLECTION OF SUNLIGHT

BY THE RINGS THEMSELVES.

AND AWAY FROM THE RINGS, YOU CAN
SEE THE BODY OF THE PLANET.

Narrator: THE LINE ON JAMES'
IMAGE GOES FROM THE TOP

TO THE BOTTOM OF SATURN
AND SHOWS JAMES

WHERE THE PLANET HAS
A GLOWING INFRARED BAND.

O'Donoghue: THERE IS A BRIGHT
EMISSION COMING FROM THE TOP

AND THE BOTTOM OF SATURN.

Narrator: THE BRIGHT SPOTS ARE
THE ENERGETIC GLOW

CAUSED BY THE RINGS
RAINING DOWN ON SATURN.

♪♪

BUT DO JAMES' LATEST RESULTS
REVEAL A TRICKLE

OR A MONSOON OF WATER PARTICLES?

WE WERE PRETTY SHOCKED BY
HOW MUCH WATER

WAS COMING INTO THE PLANET.

Narrator: IN JUST ONE DAY,
THE RAIN FROM SATURN'S RINGS

COULD FILL 17 OLYMPIC-SIZED
SWIMMING POOLS.

JAMES THINKS THE RINGS
ARE FADING FAST.

O'Donoghue:
THERE ARE ICY GRAINS OF WATER

STREAMING ALONG
MAGNETIC FIELD LINES

FROM THE RINGS INTO THE PLANET.

I'D BE SURPRISED IF THE RINGS
LASTED ANY LONGER

THAN 100 MILLION YEARS.

Narrator: SATURN'S RINGS
APPEARED RECENTLY,

PERHAPS ONLY
100 MILLION YEARS AGO.

THIS NEW DISCOVERY SUGGESTS
THEY'LL BE GONE JUST AS SOON.

SO ARE WE LUCKY TO BE LIVING
AT A TIME

WHEN WE CAN SEE THE RINGS
IN THEIR FULL GLORY?

Oluseyi:
PEOPLE SAY NOTHING LAST FOREVER,

ESPECIALLY IF IT'S A GOOD THING.

WELL, SATURN'S RINGS --
THEY MAY NOT LAST FOREVER.

AND IF THERE ARE PEOPLE AROUND
100 MILLION YEARS FROM NOW,

THEY MAY NOT HAVE
THE RINGS TO LOOK AT.

Narrator:
BUT WILL SATURN REALLY BE NAKED

WHEN ITS BRIGHT RINGS RAIN AWAY?

A WEIRD, WISPY RING SITS OUTSIDE
THE MAIN RINGS.

SCIENTISTS WANT TO KNOW
WHAT IT IS AND WHY IT'S THERE.

♪♪

♪♪

Narrator: THE BRIGHT RINGS OF
SATURN THAT WE SEE TODAY

MAY BE DESTINED TO FADE,

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE WEIRD
AND WISPY RING

THAT SITS OUTSIDE OF THEM?

WHAT IS IT
AND WHY IS IT THERE?

A TINY MOON INSIDE OF IT
OFFERS A CLUE.

Plait: THERE IS A BIG, DIFFUSE
RING OF WATER ICE AROUND

SATURN CALLED THE "E" RING,

AND IT TURNS OUT
THE MOON ENCELADUS

IS RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF IT.

ALL OF SATURN'S MOONS ARE REALLY
WEIRD, BUT ENCELADUS STANDS OUT.

IT'S LIKE A MIRROR.

ALMOST ALL THE SUNLIGHT
THAT HITS IT BOUNCES RIGHT OFF.

WHY?

Narrator: WHEN THE CASSINI PROBE
SAILS PAST ENCELADUS,

IT DISCOVERS
SOMETHING ASTOUNDING.

ENCELADUS FIRES OUT JETS
OF ICY PARTICLES

AT JUST OVER
800 MILES PER HOUR,

CREATING PLUMES THAT EXTEND
HUNDREDS OF MILES INTO SPACE.

Thaller:
WE ACTUALLY SENT CASSINI

OUT TO FLY PAST ENCELADUS.

AND AMAZINGLY, AS CASSINI
WAS FLYING AWAY FROM ENCELADUS

AND SUNLIGHT WAS ACTUALLY
BACKLIGHTING THE MOON,

WE REALIZED THAT ENCELADUS
WAS LEAKING.

Narrator: ENCELADUS' PLUMES OF
ICY PARTICLES

ARE CREATING
THE RING IT SITS IN --

THE WISPY "E" RING.

BUT HOW IS TINY ENCELADUS

POWERING THESE EXTRAORDINARY
PLUMES OF ICE?

ENCELADUS IS A VERY
INTERESTING WORLD

FOR BEING SUCH A TINY WORLD.

IT'S ONLY ABOUT A TENTH
THE SIZE OF TITAN,

ABOUT 300 MILES ACROSS,
AND YET IT HAS GEYSERS

WHERE WATER
IS COMING OUT OF THE SURFACE

THROUGH CRACKS IN THE ICE
FROM AN OCEAN BELOW.

Narrator: ON EARTH,
GEYSERS COME FROM UNDERGROUND

STORES OF WATER --
LIQUID WATER.

COULD THE SAME PROCESS
BE OCCURRING ON TINY,

COLD ENCELADUS?

PLANETARY SCIENTIST
FRANK POSTBERG WANTS TO KNOW

IF ENCELADUS' PLUMES ARE POWERED
BY A HIDDEN LIQUID-WATER OCEAN.

-HV ON?
-YES.

Narrator:
JUST AS THE OCEANS ON EARTH,

AN OCEAN ON ENCELADUS
WOULD BE SALTY.

IF THE "E" RING WAS ORIGINALLY
PART OF AN OCEAN ON ENCELADUS,

THE SALT SHOULD STILL BE THERE,

TRAPPED INSIDE THE ICY GRAINS
OF THE "E" RING.

SO FRANK IS LOOKING FOR SALT.

IF WE FIND SALTS HERE
IN THE ICE GRAINS,

THEN THIS IS A SMOKING GUN
THAT THE PLUME IS REALLY FED

AND MAINTAINED BY A LIQUID,
SALTY OCEAN.

AS CASSINI CIRCLES SATURN,

IT SMASHES INTO "E" RING ICE
PARTICLES, AND THEY EXPLODE.

CASSINI ANALYZES THE RESULTS
OF THIS MOLECULAR SMASH-UP

AND SENDS THE DATA
BACK TO EARTH.

BUT THERE'S A PROBLEM --

THE READINGS ONLY TELL FRANK
WHAT'S IN AN EXPLODED PARTICLE.

♪♪

IT'S LIKE FINDING SHARDS
OF GLASS

BUT TRYING TO WORK OUT
WHAT WINE GLASS THEY MADE.

♪♪

OKAY.

Narrator: FRANK USES TRIAL
AND ERROR TO WORK IT OUT,

AND A CAREFULLY MADE,
SOPHISTICATED EXPERIMENT.

HE GUESSES WHAT'S INSIDE
AN "E" RING ICE PARTICLE

AND THEN SIMULATES
ITS EXPLOSION IN HIS LAB.

NOW WE ARE PREPARING
A LIQUID WATER SAMPLE.

Narrator:
FRANK AND HIS ASSISTANT

PREPARE BATCHES OF WATER,

EACH WITH A DIFFERENT
CHEMICAL MIX.

Postberg:
SO NOW THE SOLUTION IS READY.

LET DO THE EXPERIMENT AND SEE
WHAT THE DATA LOOKS LIKE.

Narrator: FRANK'S APPARATUS
IS UNIQUE, PURPOSE-DESIGNED.

NO ONE ELSE DOES
THIS EXPERIMENT.

HE PUTS THE SAMPLE IN.

SO THE SAMPLE WE'VE JUST
PREPARED FLOWS THROUGH THIS TUBE

HERE INTO THIS INJECTION SYSTEM,

WHICH CREATES
THIS TINY WATER BEAM.

AND FROM THIS SIDE,
THE LASER COMES.

AND EVERY TIME IT HITS
THE WATER BEAM,

THIS IS A SIMILAR PROCESS
AS IF AN ICE GRAIN IN SPACE

FROM ENCELADUS HITS
THE DETECTOR ONBOARD CASSINI.

OKAY, START THE LASER.

Narrator: FRANK'S RESULTS ARE
A SERIES OF PEAKS ON A GRAPH,

AND EACH PEAK IS THE SIGNATURE
OF A PARTICULAR CHEMICAL.

WE KNOW THAT WE HIT THE WATER

WHEN RIGHT SIGNATURES
SHOW UP HERE.

NOW IT'S RUNNING.

Narrator:
IF THE RESULTS MATCH CASSINI'S,

FRANK WILL KNOW
THAT THE CHEMICAL MIX

HE'S PUT IN HIS EXPERIMENT
MATCHES THE CHEMICAL MIX

OF AN "E" RING ICE PARTICLE.

♪♪

-IT'S AN ICE SPECTRUM.
-YEAH, IT'S AN ICE SPECTRUM.

THAT'S IT. LET'S RECORD IT.

Narrator:
THE MILLION-DOLLAR QUESTION --

WILL FRANK'S SPECTRUM MATCH
THE RESULTS FROM CASSINI?

LET'S JUST TRY AND COMPARE
TO THE CASSINI SPECTRUM,

WHICH I HAVE HERE
ON MY LAPTOP.

SO THIS IS THE FIRST PEAK HERE,
SECOND PEAK HERE.

THIRD PEAK IS, AGAIN,
THE LARGER GUY,

AND THAT ONE, THAT ONE.

Narrator:
AFTER YEARS OF TRIAL AND ERROR,

FRANK HAS FINALLY FOUND
A NEAR-PERFECT MATCH.

SO WE HAVE A GOOD MATCH,
AND IT TELLS US

THAT THE COMPOSITION
OF THE WATER

WE USED RESEMBLES
THE COMPOSITION

OF THE SUBSURFACE
OCEAN OF ENCELADUS.

AND SO WE KNOW THE COMPOSITION

OF THE SUBSURFACE
OCEAN OF ENCELADUS.

THAT'S GREAT.

YEAH,
ACTUALLY JUST TELLING IT.

Narrator: THE WATER FRANK USED
FOR HIS EXPERIMENT

CONTAINS SALT.

SO FRANK NOW KNOWS THE "E" RING
ICE PARTICLES ARE SALTY,

AND THAT CAN
ONLY MEAN ONE THING.

THE "E" RING PARTICLES COME FROM
A LIQUID-WATER OCEAN

INSIDE ENCELADUS.

Oluseyi: SATURN'S MOON ENCELADUS
IS ONE OF THE MOST

INTERESTING BODIES
IN THE SOLAR SYSTEM.

GEYSERS OF LIQUID WITH SALT
FLOW UP FROM BENEATH ENCELADUS

AND BURST OUT OF THESE
CRACKS INTO SPACE,

Narrator:
AND THIS MEANS THAT ENCELADUS

HAS A LIQUID-WATER OCEAN
UNDERNEATH.

Narrator:
FRANK HAS SHOWN THAT THERE IS

LIQUID WATER INSIDE ENCELADUS.

THE WATER SHOOTS OUT OF
THE MOON AS GEYSERS

AND CREATES A WISPY RING
AROUND SATURN.

BUT HOW LONG CAN ENCELADUS
KEEP POWERING ITS GEYSERS

AND MAINTAIN ITS RING?

IS THIS RING, LIKE THE OTHERS,
DESTINED TO FADE AWAY?

A PERPLEXING READING FROM
CASSINI COULD HOLD THE ANSWER.

Postberg:
THIS WAS ANOTHER SMOKING GUN.

Narrator: AND IS SATURN HIDING
A DARK SECRET --

A GIANT HIDDEN RING ON A SCALE

THAT MAKES THE OTHERS
SEEM LIKE BABIES?

♪♪

♪♪

Narrator: SCIENTISTS ARE
CONVINCED THAT SATURN'S BRIGHT,

SHINING RINGS ARE TEMPORARY.

POSSIBLY FORMED ONLY
100 MILLION YEARS AGO,

THEY'RE DESTINED TO FADE
JUST AS FAST.

♪♪

YET, AMAZINGLY, ONE OF SATURN'S
TINY, ICY MOONS, ENCELADUS,

IS SHOOTING GEYSERS
OF WATER ICE INTO SPACE,

CREATING ANOTHER RING,
THE "E" RING.

BUT HOW LONG CAN ENCELADUS
KEEP POWERING THE "E" RING?

♪♪

EXPERIMENTS HAVE SHOWN THAT
ENCELADUS' GEYSERS ARE DRIVEN

BY AN UNDERGROUND OCEAN
OF LIQUID WATER.

BUT IS THE OCEAN, AND ITS
STUNNING GEYSERS, HERE TO STAY?

♪♪

MISSION SCIENTIST
FRANK POSTBERG HOLDS A CLUE

IN SOME STRANGE DATA
FROM THE CASSINI SPACE PROBE.

THE DATA SHOWS THAT THE "E" RING
ISN'T JUST MADE OF ICE.

THERE'S SOMETHING ELSE IN THERE.

THIS SPECTRUM
IS TOTALLY DIFFERENT.

THIS WAS PUZZLING.

IT WAS COMING FROM THE "E" RING,
WHICH WE KNOW

IS TOTALLY DOMINATED
BY WATER ICE AND SOME SALTS.

BUT NOW WE SEE NO WATER
AT ALL IN THIS SPECTRUM.

Narrator: THIS SPECTRUM SHOWS
THAT WHATEVER ELSE IS

IN THE "E" RING
IS ALMOST PURE ROCK,

MADE OF A MINERAL
CALLED SILICA.

BUT WHY ARE THERE SMALL GRAINS
OF PURE SILICA

IN AMONGST THE ICE
OF THE "E" RING?

Postberg: WE FOUND THAT THIS IS
A VERY SPECIFIC THING

WHICH IS PRODUCED
FROM HOT WATER WITH ROCK.

SO COLD WATER COULD NOT EXTRACT
ANY SILICA FROM THE ROCK,

BUT HOT WATER CAN,
ONLY HOT WATER CAN.

Narrator: THE RESULTS REVEAL
SOMETHING EXTRAORDINARY.

♪♪

BENEATH ENCELADUS' ICY CRUST
AND UNDERNEATH

ITS LIQUID OCEAN,

ENCELADUS'S CORE IS HOT.

THE CORE HEATS UP AND SHOOTS
OUT SILICA-RICH WATER

THAT MIXES INTO THE OCEAN,
STOPPING IT FROM FREEZING.

FISSURES CRACK OPEN
IN THE MOON'S SURFACE,

AND JETS OF ICE CRYSTALS

TRAVELING AROUND
800 MILES PER HOUR

ARE SUCKED OUT
BY THE VACUUM OF SPACE.

AS ENCELADUS ORBITS,

SATURN'S POWERFUL GRAVITY
STRETCHES AND SQUEEZES ITS CORE,

GENERATING THE HEAT
THAT POWERS THE WHOLE PROCESS.

ENCELADUS,
WHEN IT ORBITS SATURN,

IS SOMETIMES A LITTLE BIT CLOSER

AND SOMETIMES
A LITTLE BIT FARTHER AWAY.

AND THAT CHANGES THE EFFECT
OF GRAVITY ON THE MOON,

AND THAT STRETCHES IT
AND COMPRESSES IT

AND STRETCHES IT
AND COMPRESSES IT,

HEATING UP THE CENTER
OF THIS MOON.

Narrator:
SATURN'S POWERFUL GRAVITY

KEEPS THE CORE OF
TINY ENCELADUS HOT.

♪♪

AND THAT MEANS THAT ENCELADUS
COULD KEEP ON

SPILLING ITS ICY GUTS INTO SPACE
FOR BILLIONS OF YEARS.

♪♪

LONG AFTER SATURN'S MAIN RINGS
HAVE RAINED AWAY,

THE "E" RING
WILL CONTINUE TO SHINE.

TURNS OUT, EVEN THOUGH
IT'S A SMALL MOON,

THERE'S A LOT OF ICE IN IT.

AND WHEN YOU FIGURE ALL THIS OUT
AND SAY,

"WELL, HOW MUCH ICE
IS IT BLOWING OUT?

HOW MUCH DOES IT HAVE?"

IT TURNS OUT, YEAH, ENCELADUS

CAN DO THIS
FOR A LONG, LONG TIME.

Narrator: BUT WHEN THE MAIN
RINGS ARE GONE,

WILL THE "E" RING BE THE ONLY
RING ENCIRCLING SATURN?

♪♪

A WEIRD MOON CALLED IAPETUS

HINTS THERE COULD BE
SOMETHING ELSE OUT THERE,

SOMETHING HUGE.

♪♪

♪♪

Narrator: THE MAIN RINGS OF
SATURN MIGHT BE FADING AWAY,

BUT THAT'S HARDLY
THE END OF THE STORY.

SATURN'S MOON IAPETUS
OFFERS A CLUE

THAT THERE IS MORE ENCIRCLING
SATURN THAN MEETS THE EYE.

IAPETUS WAS DISCOVERED
HUNDREDS OF YEARS AGO --

THIS TINY, LITTLE MOON.

AND IT WAS QUICKLY DETERMINED
THAT IT WAS REALLY STRANGE.

ONE SIDE OF IT IS VERY SHINY
AND REFLECTIVE,

AND THE OTHER SIDE
IS ACTUALLY QUITE DARK.

THAT'S BIZARRE.

Narrator: IN BOULDER, COLORADO,
PLANETARY SCIENTIST

ANNE VERBISCER THINKS
THAT THE REASON FOR THIS

IS IN FRONT OF OUR EYES.

WE JUST CAN'T SEE IT.

ANNE SUSPECTS THAT SATURN
IS SURROUNDED

BY A RING OF JET-BLACK PARTICLES
THAT LIE OUTSIDE THE MAIN RINGS

BUT ARE INVISIBLE
TO NORMAL TELESCOPES.

AS IAPETUS ORBITS SATURN,

ITS LEADING FACE PLOWS THROUGH
THIS INVISIBLE DARK RING.

♪♪

Verbiscer: WHEN YOU'RE DRIVING,
YOU HAVE A DIRTY WINDSHIELD.

BUGS ON A WINDSHIELD IS IAPETUS.

Narrator: JUST LIKE BUGS
STICKING TO A WINDSHIELD,

THE DARK-RING PARTICLES
STICK TO THE ICY MOON,

PAINTING ITS LEADING FACE BLACK.

♪♪

BUT HOW DO YOU PROVE
THE EXISTENCE OF A RING

YOU CAN'T SEE?

ANNE'S SURPRISING SOLUTION
IS HEAT.

SO, IF YOU WERE TO LOOK
FOR DARK-RING PARTICLES

WITH VISIBLE LIGHT, THEY WOULD
BE PRETTY HARD TO DETECT.

HOWEVER...

I HAVE A THERMAL INFRARED
IMAGER HERE,

AND IF WE LOOK AT THIS CUP
FULL OF HOT WATER,

YOU SEE IT'S EASY TO DETECT
AGAINST A COLD,

BLACK BACKGROUND.

Narrator: THE JET-BLACK MUG
SHOWS UP EASILY

BECAUSE IT'S HOTTER
THAN ITS BACKGROUND.

ANNE REALIZES THAT
THE INVISIBLE RING

SHOULD BE SLIGHTLY HOTTER
THAN THE BACKDROP OF SPACE.

SO SHE TAKES A FRESH LOOK
AT SATURN

WITH THE WORLD'S FINEST
INFRARED TELESCOPES.

THE RESULT IS ASTONISHING.

♪♪

WHEN I SAW THIS IMAGE,
I WAS EXTREMELY RELIEVED

TO SEE THAT,
YES, INDEED, THE RING IS REAL.

THERE IT IS.

Verbiscer: IN INFRARED, THE DARK
RING IS FINALLY REVEALED,

AND IT'S A MONSTER.

Verbiscer:
THIS RING IS ENORMOUS.

IT IS THE LARGEST PLANETARY
RING IN THE SOLAR SYSTEM.

YOU CAN SEE IT EXTENDS

EH, ABOUT OUT TO THERE,

MAYBE THERE, ON EITHER SIDE
OF SATURN HERE AT THE CENTER.

THE THICKNESS OF THE RING
IS EQUIVALENT

TO 20 SATURNS STACKED
ON TOP OF ONE ANOTHER.

♪♪

THE GIANT RING DWARFS
THE SATURNIAN SYSTEM,

STRETCHING OUT 120 TIMES WIDER
THAN THE MAIN RINGS.

♪♪

THIS DARK RING SOLVES

THE PROBLEM
OF TWO-FACED IAPETUS,

BUT HOW WAS THIS ENORMOUS RING
MADE IN THE FIRST PLACE?

♪♪

FROM THE DARK SIDE OF IAPETUS,
A TRAIL OF BLACK DUST LEADS

8 MILLION MILES AWAY
FROM SATURN TO A STRANGE,

SMALL MOON CALLED PHOEBE.

124 MILES ACROSS,

ITS SURFACE IS DARK ROCK.

AS IT RACES THROUGH SPACE
AT ALMOST 4,000 MILES PER HOUR,

IT LEAVES A TRAIL OF DARK DEBRIS
IN ITS WAKE,

CREATING THE KING
OF ALL SATURN'S RINGS.

22 MILLION MILES ACROSS,

THE GIANT RING MADE BY PHOEBE
IS SO ENORMOUS

THAT IF IT WEREN'T SO DARK,

IT WOULD BE THE BIGGEST OBJECT
IN OUR NIGHT SKY.

IT'S A LITTLE WEIRD TO THINK
THAT SATURN,

ONE OF THE MOST WELL-OBSERVED
OBJECTS IN THE SOLAR SYSTEM,

CAN HIDE SOMETHING FROM US,
ESPECIALLY SOMETHING THAT HUGE.

LONG AFTER THOSE BEAUTIFUL,
GAUDY RINGS ARE GONE,

IF YOU HAVE INFRARED EYES,

SATURN WILL STILL BE
THE RINGED PLANET.

Narrator: SATURN'S BRIGHT,
SHINING RINGS DAZZLE US

WITH THEIR COMPLEXITY
AND BEAUTY.

♪♪

POSSIBLY FORMED
JUST 100 MILLION YEARS AGO,

WHEN THE SOLAR SYSTEM
WAS ALREADY OLD,

THEY ARE DESTINED TO FADE.

BUT NOW WE'RE UNDERSTANDING
THAT THE RINGS WE SEE FROM EARTH

ARE ONLY PART OF THE STORY.

WEIRD AND EXOTIC MOONS
ARE CREATING NEW RINGS

THAT WILL ENCIRCLE SATURN
FOR BILLIONS OF YEARS TO COME.

SATURN'S RINGS ARE HERE
TO STAY.

Adjusted CORNELDVD