Where do planetary rings come from, and what are they made of?
Why do planets have rings? What are they made of?
The rings of Jupiter are made of dust, which probably was knocked off of its moons by meteorite impacts.
The rings of Saturn are made of chunks of water ice, mostly about 2 centimeters in size, the size of a baseball or softball. The rings of Uranus are made of larger ice boulders several meters across, and quite a bit of dust. The rings of Uranus are made of darker stuff than Saturn's rings, probably dirtier ice. We don't know for sure where the rings of Uranus and Saturn came from. Some of the rings might come from moons torn apart by the planet's gravity, or they could have formed as the planets formed.
Neptune's rings are even more mysterious. We don't have a good idea of what they're made of, but the ring particles are probably very small, dark particles of ice and rock.
Get More 'Curious?' with Our New PODCAST:
- Podcast? Subscribe? Tell me about the Ask an Astronomer Podcast
- Subscribe to our Podcast | Listen to our current Episode
- Cool! But I can't now. Send me a quick reminder now for later.
How to ask a question:
If you have a follow-up question concerning the above subject, submit it here. If you have a question about another area of astronomy, find the topic you're interested in from the archive on our site menu, or go here for help.Table 'curious.Referrers' doesn't existTable 'curious.Referrers' doesn't exist
This page has been accessed 39168 times since August 30, 2005.
Last modified: September 1, 2005 5:02:52 PM
Ask an Astronomer is hosted by the Astronomy Department at Cornell University and is produced with PHP and MySQL.
Warning: Your browser is misbehaving! This page might look ugly. (Details)