Because it is more massive, Jupiter should have larger and more spectacular rings than Saturn. But new research from UC Riverside, USA shows that Jupiter’s massive moons prevent this celestial phenomenon.
“I’ve often wondered why Jupiter doesn’t have even more stunning rings to put Saturn to shame,” said UCR astrophysicist Stephen Kane, who led the research. indicates Eurek Alert.
“If Jupiter had them, it 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 and lost them. Ring structures may be temporary.
To understand why Jupiter currently looks the way it does, Kane and his student Zhexing Li ran a dynamic computer simulation that accounted for the orbits of Jupiter’s four main moons, as well as the orbit of the planet itself and information about when rings are needed to form. Their results are now onlineto be published soon in the magazine Planetary Science.
Saturn’s rings are made mostly of ice
Saturn’s rings are mostly made of ice, some of which may have come from comets, which are also mostly made of ice. If the moons are massive enough, their gravity can throw ice from a planet’s orbit or change the ice’s orbit enough to collide with the moons.
“We found that Jupiter’s moons, one of which is the largest moon in the Solar System, would very quickly destroy any large rings that formed,” 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 substantial rings,” Kane said.
All four giant planets in our Solar System like Saturn, Neptune, Uranus and also Jupiter actually have rings. However, both Neptune’s and Jupiter’s rings are so thin that they are difficult to see with traditional stargazing instruments. Coincidentally, some of the recent images from the James Webb Space Telescope have included images of Jupiter in which the rings are visible.
Data obtained via telescope
“We didn’t know these ephemeral rings existed until the Voyager spacecraft passed through the area, because we couldn’t see them,” Kane said. Uranus has rings that are not as large but more substantial than Saturn’s. Next, Kane plans to run simulations of conditions on Uranus to see what the lifetime of that planet’s rings might be.
Some astronomers believe that Uranus is tipped on its side as a result of a collision the planet had with another celestial body. Its rings could be the remnants of that impact. Beyond their beauty, rings help astronomers understand a planet’s history because they provide evidence of past collisions with natural satellites or comets. The shape and size of the rings, as well as the composition of the material, give an indication of the type of event that formed them.
“When we look at the rings of the giant planets, we see evidence of a catastrophic event,” Kane said.