Saturn has a beautiful ring system. And Jupiter – judging by its size – should have a larger ring system. But this is not true. This is because of the mane.
This is what the researchers say New study Which will be published in the magazine soon Planetary sciences It seems. It is based on computer simulation.
Not great episodes
Saturn has an incredible ring system drawn by the Cassini spacecraft in an incomparable way. But this beautiful ring system must really pale in comparison to Jupiter’s rings. Jupiter is larger and therefore must have a more impressive ring system than Saturn. And because Jupiter is closer than Saturn, those rings, when admired from Earth, would appear brighter than Saturn’s rings as well. But all this is not the case. Because the buyer has no rings. At least: no great episodes.
“It bothered me for a long time,” said researcher Stephen Kane. “Why doesn’t Jupiter have rings larger than Saturn’s?” He decided to find out. He soon discovered that Jupiter’s moons play a major role.
In their study, Kane and his colleague Zhexing Li used computer models that described not only the orbit of Jupiter, but also the orbit of its four largest moons. Using these models—and information about how long it takes for rings to form—the researchers have attempted to discover why Jupiter doesn’t have an impressive ring system and whether things might have been different in the past.
Ironically, the simulations show that Jupiter’s massive size – which was initially suggested to have had a massive ring system – prevented the planet from forming rings. “Large planets form large moons, which prevents them from forming large rings,” Kane said.
What about that?
If we look at the rings of Saturn, we see that they consist mostly of ice. These ice particles are found in orbit around Saturn, and form the well-known ring system. But the big moons can stop that with their immense gravitational pull. The moons’ gravity can kick the ice particles out of their familiar orbit, or at least change that orbit in such a way that the ice collides with the moons themselves. “We found that the Galilean moons (Jupiter’s four largest moons, ed.), one of the largest in our solar system, are rapidly destroying any large ring that could form.” Based on this conclusion, the researchers stated that Jupiter was never able to develop a strong ring system, and therefore did not have such a ring system in the past.
By the way, this certainly does not mean that Jupiter cannot develop rings at all; The planet – just like Neptune – has very thin rings, and therefore it is difficult to observe them. “We didn’t know these rings existed until after Voyager passed the planet in 1979 because we couldn’t see them before,” Kane said.
Although Saturn is the most famous of the orbiting planets, there is another planet with a rather large ring system. This is Uranus. Some researchers believe that Uranus collided with another celestial body and rolled (the planet has a tilted axis). The rings could also consist of debris created during that impact. Kane hopes to investigate Uranus’ ring system in more detail soon and find out, for example, how long those rings will last.
The study of the ring systems of the planets in our solar system is important because the shape, size, and composition of the rings can tell us more about the history of the planets that surround them. “For us astronomers, it’s bloodstains on the wall of a crime scene,” Kane said. “When we look at the rings of the major planets, it’s evidence that something catastrophic happened that brought this material there.”
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