(ORDO NEWS) — Because Jupiter is larger, it must have larger and more impressive rings than Saturn. But a new study from the University of California at Riverside shows that Jupiter’s massive moons make it impossible to see this spectacle in the night sky.
“I’ve long wondered why Jupiter doesn’t have even more amazing rings that could put Saturn’s rings to shame,” said astrophysicist Stephen Cain, who led the study.
“If Jupiter had them, they would appear even brighter to us, because the planet is much closer than Saturn.” Kane also had questions about whether Jupiter once had fantastic rings, but lost them. It is possible that ring structures may be temporary.
To understand why Jupiter currently looks the way it does, Kane and his graduate student Zhexing Li ran dynamic computer simulations given the orbits of Jupiter’s four major moons, as well as the orbit of the planet itself and information about the time it takes for rings to form.
Their results have already been published online and will soon be published in the journal Planetary Science.
Saturn’s rings are made up mostly of ice, some of which could have come from comets also made up mostly of ice. If the moons are massive enough, their gravity can throw ice out of the planet’s orbit or change the ice’s orbit so much that it collides with the moons.
“We found that Jupiter’s Galilean moons, one of which is the largest moon in our solar system, will very quickly destroy any large rings that may form,” Kane said. As a result, it is unlikely that Jupiter had large rings at any point in its past.
” “Massive planets form massive moons, which prevents them from having significant rings,” Kane said.
All four giant planets in our solar system are Saturn , Neptune, Uranus, and Jupiter actually have rings, but the rings of Neptune and Jupiter are so fragile that they are hard to see with traditional stargazing instruments.
Coincidentally, some of the recent images taken by the recently launched James Webb Space Telescope include photographs of Jupiter showing faint rings.
We didn’t know these ephemeral rings existed until the Voyager spacecraft flew by because we couldn’t see them,” Kane said.
Uranus’ rings are not as big, but more substantial than those of Saturn.” In the future, Kane intends to run simulations of conditions on Uranus to find out what the lifetime of the planet’s rings might be.
Some astronomers believe that Uranus tipped over on its side as a result of a collision of the planet with another celestial body. Its rings may be remnants of this collision.
In addition to their beauty, the rings help astronomers understand the history of the planet, as they provide evidence of collisions with moons or comets that may have occurred in the past. The shape and size of the rings, as well as the composition of the material, give an indication of the type of event that resulted in their formation.
“For us astronomers, it’s blood splatter on the walls at a crime scene. When we look at the rings of giant planets, it’s evidence that something catastrophic has happened, causing this material to end up there,” Kane said.
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