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The “ring rain” of material falling from Saturn’s rings into the planet’s atmosphere is a much more intense, contaminated downpour than scientists thought.

For decades, astronomers have suspected that Saturn’s rings pelt the planet with grains of water ice, but some of the final observations from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft provide the first detailed views of these celestial showers (SN: 4/14/18, p. 6). Ring rain is highly contaminated with organic matter and other molecules, and hammers Saturn at thousands of kilograms per second, researchers report in the Oct. 5 Science. Understanding the rain’s surprising quantity and quality could help clarify the origins and evolution of Saturn’s rings.

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