The rings of the planet Saturn produce their own rain that falls onto the planet beneath, astronomers have discovered.
The rain may fall mainly from the rings of Saturn.
While it does not have the same ring to the phrase repeated by Eliza in My Fair Lady as she learned the importance of pronunciation, scientists have discovered that water is raining onto Saturn from its own distinctive rings.
The finding may help to explain where water seen in Saturn’s upper atmosphere is coming from.
Observations taken by the Keck Observatory in Hawaii have shown that electrically charged droplets of rain are showering onto the planet from the rings 120,000 miles overhead.
James O’Donoghue, the lead author of the study at Leicester University, said: ““Saturn is the first planet to show significant interaction between its atmosphere and ring system.
“The main effect of ring rain is that it acts to ‘quench’ the ionosphere of Saturn, severely reducing the electron densities in regions in which it falls.”
The findings are published in the journal Nature and reveal that the water falls across a large portion of the planet, influencing the composition and temperature in the upper parts of Saturn’s atmosphere.
Scientists first predicted that water could be showing down from the rings after NASA’s Voyager spacecraft showed images of two to three dark bands on Saturn.
Infrared images taken in 1997 also revealed the presence of trace amounts of water in the atmosphere, but left astronomers baffled as to how it got there.
A team at the Keck Observatory then captured a near infrared images that showed bright patterns in Saturn’s ionosphere.
They believe that the charged water particles from the rings are drawn towards the planet by Saturn’s magnetic field producing the patterns they detected.