Press "Enter" to skip to content

Why Are Some Planets Surrounded by Rings?

Illustration of Saturn and its rings. All of the outer gas giant planets — Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, and Uranus — have rings around them.

Planets are surrounded by rings because they are made up of particles that orbit the planet. These particles can be made up of a variety of materials, such as rock, ice, and dust. The rings are formed when objects in the planet’s surrounding space, such as comets, asteroids, or moons, break up and their debris is pulled into the planet’s gravitational field. The particles then begin to orbit the planet and form a ring. The size and shape of the rings can vary depending on the size and composition of the particles, as well as the planet’s gravitational pull. Some planets, such as SaturnSaturn is the sixth planet from the sun and has the second-largest mass in the Solar System. It has a much lower density than Earth but has a much greater volume. Saturn's name comes from the Roman god of wealth and agriculture.” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]”>Saturn, are known for their large and distinctive ring systems, while others, such as MarsMars is the second smallest planet in our solar system and the fourth planet from the sun. It is a dusty, cold, desert world with a very thin atmosphere. Iron oxide is prevalent in Mars' surface resulting in its reddish color and its nickname "The Red Planet." Mars' name comes from the Roman god of war.” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]”>Mars, have much smaller and less noticeable rings.

Saturn was thought to be the only planet in our solar system with rings for a very long time. The rings around Saturn were discovered nearly 400 years ago by the famous astronomer, Galileo Galilei. He used a very simple telescope that he constructed himself from lenses and pointed it at the planets in the night sky. One of the first objects he looked at was Saturn. At first, he thought that Saturn had two large moons on either side of the planet because his telescope wasn’t very good and only produced very blurry images.

Since then, astronomers have used bigger and better telescopes to find rings around all of the outer gas giant planets: JupiterJupiter is the largest planet in the solar system and the fifth planet from the sun. It is a gas giant with a mass greater then all of the other planets combined. Its name comes from the Roman god Jupiter.” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]”>Jupiter, Saturn, NeptuneNeptune is the farthest planet from the sun. In our solar system, it is the fourth-largest planet by size, and third densest. It is named after the Roman god of the sea.” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]”>Neptune, and UranusUranus is the seventh farthest planet from the sun. It has the third-largest diameter and fourth-highest mass of planets in our solar system. It is classified as an "ice giant" like Neptune. Uranus' name comes from a Latinized version of the Greek god of the sky.” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]”>Uranus. These planets, unlike others in our system, consist largely of gas.

Although we’re not exactly sure how the rings work or how they formed, there are a few theories.


Source: SciTechDaily