A planetary ring is a ring of cosmic dust and other small particles orbiting around a planet in a flat disc-shaped region. The most spectacular planetary rings known are those around Saturn, but the other three gas giants of the solar system (Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune) possess ring systems of their own.
There are three ways that planetary rings have been proposed to have formed: from material of the protoplanetary disk that was within the Roche limit of the planet and thus could not coalesce to form moons; from the debris of a moon that was disrupted by a large impact; or from the debris of a moon that was disrupted by tidal stresses when it passed within the planet's Roche limit. Most rings are thought to be unstable and to dissipate over the course of tens or hundreds of millions of years, but it appears that Saturn's rings might be quite old, dating to the early days of the Solar system.
The composition of ring particles varies; they may be silicate or icy dust. Larger rocks and boulders may also be present, and in 2007 tidal effects from eight 'moonlets' only a few hundred meters across were detected within Saturn's rings.
Sometimes rings will have "shepherd" moons, small moons that orbit near the outer edges of rings or within gaps in the rings. The gravity of shepherd moons serves to maintain a sharply defined edge to the ring; material that drifts closer to the shepherd moon's orbit is either deflected back into the body of the ring, ejected from the system, or accreted onto the moon itself.
- See also: Error: Template must be given at least one article name. It is possible that these rings are composed of material that is being pulled off of these two bodies by Jupiter's tidal forces, possibly facilitated by impacts of ring material on their surfaces. A moon inside the Roche limit is held together only by its mechanical strength rather than by its gravity, and so loose material on its surface would simply "fall off" to join the rings
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Neptune's rings are very unusual in that they first appeared to be composed of incomplete arcs in Earth-based observations, but Voyager 2's images showed them to be complete rings with bright clumps
- See also: Error: Template must be given at least one article name. It is thought
- See also: Error: Template must be given at least one article name that the gravitational influence of the shepherd moon Galatea and possibly other as-yet undiscovered shepherd moons are responsible for this clumpiness.
- See also: Error: Template must be given at least one article name that the Earth had a ring system.
Visual comparison Edit
See also Edit
- ↑ http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/cassini/media/rhea20080306.html NASA - Saturn's Moon Rhea Also May Have Rings
- ↑ Jones, G. H.; et al. (2008-03-07). "The Dust Halo of Saturn's Largest Icy Moon, Rhea". Science (AAAS) 319 (5868): 1380–1384. doi:10.1126/science.1151524. PMID 18323452, http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/short/319/5868/1380.
- ↑ Lakdawalla, E. (2008-03-06). "A Ringed Moon of Saturn? Cassini Discovers Possible Rings at Rhea". The Planetary Society web site. Planetary Society. Retrieved on 2008-03-09.
- ↑ "Saturn's Rings May Be Old Timers". NASA (News Release 2007-149) (December 12, 2007). Retrieved on 2008-04-11.
- ↑ Steffl, Andrew J.; S. Alan Stern. First Constraints on Rings in the Pluto System. astro-ph/0608036, http://arxiv.org/abs/astro-ph/0608036.
- ↑ Holsapple, K. A. (12 2001). "Equilibrium Configurations of Solid Cohesionless Bodies". Icarus 154 (2): 432–448. doi:10.1006/icar.2001.6683, http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2001Icar..154..432H. Retrieved on 13 December 2007.
- ↑ Gürtler, J. & Dorschner, J: "Das Sonnensystem", Barth (1993), ISBN 3-335-00281-4