Future skygazers may not see Saturn’s icy rings anymore, according to new research from NASA’s Cassini mission. Data collected from 2004 to 2017 suggests that the rings formed long after Saturn was formed, making them relatively young, possibly just a few hundred million years old. Composed mostly of ice, the rings appear surprisingly clean, indicating that they haven’t been around long enough to gather cosmic dust. The rings are also losing mass rapidly due to meteoroid impacts, suggesting a limited existence of a few hundred million more years. Scientists guess that the rings may have come from the gravitational instability that destroyed some of Saturn’s icy moons.

This discovery raises the possibility that the rings around other ice and gas bodies in our solar system, like Uranus and Neptune, may have once been larger and more vibrant. Understanding the formation and fate of Saturn’s rings could provide insights into the search for the building blocks of life in the universe.