Why does Saturn have rings and Jupiter does not?  A computer model may have figured out

Why does Saturn have rings and Jupiter does not? A computer model may have figured out

Jupiter, the fifth planet in our solar system and by far the most massive, is a treasure trove of scientific discoveries. Last year, two studies revealed that the planet’s iconic Great Red Spot is 40 times deeper than the Mariana Trench, the deepest place on planet Earth. In April, authors of a paper in the journal Nature Communications studied a double ridge in northwest Greenland with the same gravity-scale geometry as those found on Europa, one of Earth’s moons. Jupiter, and concluded that the probability of life on Europa is greater than expected.

Now scholars think they’ve solved another great Jupiter mystery – namely, why it lacks the dramatic rings displayed by its celestial neighbor, Saturn. As a very massive gas giant with a similar composition, the evolution of the two planets is thought to be similar – meaning that the reason one has a prominent ring system and the other does not always been a headache.

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With results that are now online and soon to be published in the journal Planetary Science, researchers at the University of California-Riverside have used modeling to determine that Jupiter’s huge moons are quenching possible ring creation in the planet. ‘egg.

Using a computer simulation that depicted the orbits of each of Jupiter’s four moons, astrophysicist Stephen Kane and graduate student Zhexing Li realized that the gravity of these moons would alter the orbit of any ice that may come from of a comet and would ultimately prevent their accumulation in such a way of forming rings, as happened with Saturn. Instead, the moons would push the ice away from the planet’s orbit or pull the ice into a collision course with themselves.

This not only explains why Jupiter currently only has the smallest of the rings; this suggests that he probably never had large rings.


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There’s more at stake here than just understanding why Jupiter’s aesthetic differs from Saturn’s aesthetic. As Kane explained in a statement, a planet’s rings hold many clues to that planet’s history. They can help scientists understand which objects may have collided with a planet in the past, or perhaps the type of event that formed them.

“For us astronomers, it’s the blood splatter on the walls of a crime scene. When we look at the rings of giant planets, it’s proof that something catastrophic happened to put this material there. “, explained Kane.

Scientists say they have no plans to complete their astronomical survey of Jupiter; their next stop is Uranus, which also has paltry rings. Researchers believe that Uranus, which appears to be tilted sideways, may be missing rings due to a collision with another celestial body.

Technically Jupiter has a ring system, it’s just incredibly small and weak. Indeed, Jupiter’s rings are so small that scientists didn’t even discover them until 1979, when the Voyager space probe passed by the gas giant. There are three faint rings, all made of dust particles emitted from neighboring moons – a flattened main ring 20 miles thick and 4,000 miles wide, a donut-shaped inner ring over 12,000 miles thick and a so-called “gossamer” ring which is actually made up of three much smaller rings made up of microscopic debris from nearby moons.

NASA itself has expressed wonder at the wispy rings that accompany our solar system’s most visible juggernaut, especially the size of the particles that make them up.

“These grains are so tiny that a thousand of them together are only a millimeter long,” writes NASA. “It makes them as small as the particles of cigarette smoke.”

In contrast, Saturn’s rings are renowned for their beauty, and some of the particles in these rings are “as big as mountains.” When the Cassini spacecraft was finally able to observe Saturn’s rings up close, it found “rays” longer than Earth’s diameter and potentially made of ice – as well as jets of water from Saturn’s moon Enceladus, which would provide much of the material in the planet’s E ring.

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