Saturn, the ringed planet, is currently visible in the evening sky and offers a spectacular sight through a telescope or binoculars. However, recent articles claiming that Saturn’s rings are disappearing and will be gone by 2025 have caused panic on social media. The truth is that while the rings will become almost invisible from Earth in 2025, this is not a cause for concern as they will reappear soon after.
To understand why our view of Saturn changes, we need to consider Earth’s constant journey around the Sun. Earth’s tilt towards one side as seen from the Sun causes the seasons. Similarly, Saturn experiences seasons due to its equator being tilted by 26.7 degrees. As Saturn moves through its 29.4-year orbit, it appears to nod up and down from both Earth and the Sun.
Saturn’s rings, made up of ice, dust, and rocks, are spread out over a large distance but are very thin. They orbit directly above Saturn’s equator and are tilted to the plane of its orbit. The rings appear to disappear when viewed edge on because of their thinness. As Saturn moves around the Sun, our viewpoint changes, and we see different sides of the rings.
In 2025, the rings will seemingly “disappear” because we will be looking at them edge on. This happens regularly and occurred last in 2009. The rings gradually become visible again over a few months. They will be edge on again in March 2025, gradually coming back into view through large telescopes before sliding out of view again in November 2025. After that, they will gradually become more obvious and reappear to the largest telescopes over the following months.
Therefore, if you want to see Saturn’s rings clearly, now is your best chance until 2027 or 2028.