If we talk about ringed planets, more often than not every one of us will be talking about Saturn. This, despite the fact that all four giants in our solar system Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune – in fact have rings.

This is likely because Saturn has spectacular rings. While the rings of Jupiter and Neptune are flimsy and difficult to view with stargazing instruments traditionally used, the rings of Uranus aren’t as large as that of Saturn’s.

As Jupiter is bigger than Saturn, it ought to have rings that are larger and more spectacular than that of its neighbour. As this isn’t the case, scientists from UC Riverside decided to investigate it further. Their results were accepted by the Planetary Science journal and are available online.

Dynamic simulation

A dynamic computer simulation was run to try and understand the reason why Jupiter’s rings look the way they do. The simulation accounted for Jupiter’s orbit, the orbits of Jupiter’s four main moons, and information regarding the time it takes for rings to form.

The rings of Saturn are largely made of ice, some of which may have come from comets also largely made of ice. When moons are massive, their gravity can either clear the ice out of the planet’s orbit, or change the ice’s orbit such that it collides with the moons.

Massive moons

The Galilean moons of Jupiter Ganymede, Callisto, lo, and Europa- are all large moons. Ganymede, in fact, is the largest moon in our solar system. The four main massive moons of Jupiter would thus destroy any large rings that might form around the planet. This also means that Jupiter is unlikely to have had large. spectacular rings at any time in the past as well.

Ring systems, apart from being beautiful, help us understand the history of a planet. They offer evidence of collisions with moons or comets, indicating the type of event that might have led to their formation. The researchers next plan to use the simulations to study the rings of Uranus to find out what the lifetime of those rings might be.

Picture Credit : Google 

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