(ORDO NEWS) — Jupiter is the largest planet in the solar system , so it seems quite logical that this object should have larger and more spectacular rings than we see on Saturn.
The ring system of a giant planet could be one of the brightest objects in the Earth‘s night sky, but it was not destined to appear due to large satellites.
Nature of planetary rings
Saturn’s rings are mostly made of ice, some of which was brought in by comets from the outer solar system.
If the satellites of the gas giant are massive enough, then it will not be difficult for them to “throw” ice out of orbit or “drop” it into the planet’s atmosphere.
Yes, Saturn has a lot of satellites (as of July 27, 2022, there are 82 of them), but most of them are very tiny and therefore, interacting with the rings, they only determine their boundaries and form “gaps” (slits) in them.
The Galilean satellites of Jupiter, Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, are fairly large objects. Ganymede, for example, is the largest moon in the solar system, with a diameter of almost 390 kilometers larger than the diameter of Mercury.
Therefore, by interacting with the material in the orbit of Jupiter, these satellites stop any attempts to form large rings. Because of this, despite its impressive size, Jupiter has only very faint and thin rings.
Gas giant rings
All four gas giants of the solar system, Saturn, Neptune, Uranus, and Jupiter, do have rings . However, the rings of both Neptune and Jupiter are so fragile that they are difficult to see with traditional stargazing instruments.
Uranus also has rings that are smaller but stronger than those of Saturn. Modeling showed that in the distant past, Uranus collided with something very large, possibly a protoplanet, and this event kind of “turned” the planet on its side and caused the appearance of very dark and relatively strong rings (the nature of their material is unknown, but this definitely not ice).
The rings are not only beauty, but also missing pages in the annals of the evolution of a massive planet, testifying to ancient collisions with protoplanets, satellites and comets.
The shapes and sizes of the rings, as well as their composition, indicate the events that formed them. For planetary scientists, the rings represent evidence left at the scene of a “space crime”.
When we look at the rings, for example, of Saturn, it is worth remembering that we are facing the result of some catastrophic events.
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