In a celestial feat any magician would appreciate, Saturn will make its wide but thin ring system disappear from our view Aug. 11.
Saturn's rings, loaded with ice and mud, boulders and tiny moons, is 170,000 miles wide. But the shimmering setup is only about 30 feet thick. The rings harbor 35 trillion-trillion tons of ice, dust and rock, scientists estimate.
The rings shine because they reflect sunlight. But every 15 years, the rings turn edge-on to the sun and reflect almost no sunlight.
"The light reflecting off this extremely narrow band is so small that for all intents and purposes the rings simply vanish," explained Linda Spilker, deputy project scientist for the Cassini Saturn mission at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
The rings remain a bit of a mystery. Scientists are not sure when or how they formed, though likely a collision of other objects was involved.