Saturn, Solar System

Get The Facts About Saturn’s Rings

saturn's rings

Saturn is six planets away from the sun. The second largest planet to share the solar system with Earth is Saturn. The only one that beats it in size is Jupiter. Five planets can be seen from Earth with the naked eye and Saturn is one of them. This includes the Saturn’s rings which span approximately 175,000 miles.

Composition of Saturn’s Rings

When looking at all known solar systems, Saturn’s rings are considered to be the most extensive. They are comprised of countless small particles, which are believed to be pieces of asteroids, comets or shattered moons, that are constantly orbiting the planet. The particles can range from a mere micrometer to larger meter in size. The atmosphere in the area of the rings is an oxygen atmosphere.

Why Saturn’s Rings Are So Bright

The ice particles that cover the elements of the rings are not yet covered in dark dust, giving them a bright appearance against the space sky. The rings are also unstable and rapidly rearranging themselves and experiencing high-speed collisions. This is due to all of the moons on Saturn and their gravitational effects. These forces are also responsible for creating the numerous gaps in the rings that vary in size from very small to quite large.

saturn's rings 1
This Cassini image features a density wave in Saturn’s A ring (at left) that lies around 134,500 km from Saturn. Density waves are accumulations of particles at certain distances from the planet. This feature is filled with clumpy perturbations, which researchers informally refer to as “straw.” The wave itself is created by the gravity of the moons Janus and Epimetheus, which share the same orbit around Saturn. Elsewhere, the scene is dominated by “wakes” from a recent pass of the ring moon Pan.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Groups of Saturn’s Rings

There are four primary groups of saturn’s rings and three additional groups that are narrower and fainter. Divisions are a type of gap that separates the groups of rings. In 1980, it was discovered by the Voyager that thousands of smaller rings make up the seven ring groups.

Since Saturn is a bit closer to Earth, this makes it a little easier to scientists and researchers to get information about the planet. It is known for its rings, but it is also the second largest planet, making it one that certainly dominates the solar system.

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Jamie is an amateur astronomer and every day space geek.