Now we know why Jupiter doesn’t have rings as big and glorious as Saturn

Given its similarities to its neighbor, Saturn, it seems natural to wonder why Jupiter also doesn’t have an impressive and extensive system of visible rings.

Unfortunately, this is not the reality. While Jupiter has rings, they are thin, brittle, and brittle to dust, and can only be seen when illuminated by the sun from behind.

According to new research, these opponent’s rings lack luster because Jupiter’s group of stacked Galilean moons prevents disks of rock and dust from accumulating the way they do around Saturn.

“It has long troubled me why Jupiter doesn’t have more amazing rings that would put Saturn to shame,” said astrophysicist Stephen Kane of the University of California Riverside.

“If Jupiter had them, they would look much brighter to us, because the planet is much closer to Saturn.”

To question the idea of ​​a giant ring system forming around Jupiter at some point in its history, Ken and his colleague, astrophysicist Zixing Li of the University of California Riverside, conducted a series of simulations of objects orbiting the Jupiter system.

This simulation took into account the orbital motion of Jupiter, and the motions of its four largest moons, also known as the Galilean moons: Ganymede (larger than Mercury, and the largest moon in the solar system), Callisto, Io, and Europa. Into this mix, the team added how long it might take for the ring system to form.

Under this modeling, Jupiter could not have Saturn-style rings — and it’s unlikely that they ever did, the researchers said.

“Massive planets form massive moons, which prevents them from forming large rings,” Kane explained. “We found that the Galilean moons of Jupiter, one of the largest in our solar system, would quickly destroy any large rings that might form.”

Jupiter’s flimsy rings currently consist mostly of dust emitted by some of its moons, and likely include material that has been thrown into space from impact events.

On the other hand, Saturn’s rings are mostly made up of ice. Perhaps fragments of comets or asteroids, or an icy moon either smashed up by Saturn’s gravity or collided in such a way that the projectiles formed rings.

We know that Saturn’s moons play an important role in forming and maintaining their rings. But a large enough moon (or moons) can also gravitationally disrupt the rings, sending the ice out of the planets orbit to the greatest who knows where.

Although Saturn is the planet we all think of as the planet with the rings, rings around planets are fairly common, even here in the solar system.

There is Jupiter, of course, as we were just discussing. Ice giants, Neptune and Uranus, both have thin and brittle dust rings as well.

Uranus is also tilted on its side, relative to the other planets, with its orbital axis roughly parallel to the orbital plane. His rings are believed to be related to this in some way; Either something collided with Uranus and knocked it sideways, or it once had very massive rings, which could have caused it to tilt sideways.

And rings are not even limited to planets. A small object about 230 kilometers (143 miles) in diameter, called Chariklo, orbits between Jupiter and Uranus, and has rings. So is the dwarf planet Haumea, which is rambling in the Kuiper belt with Pluto. Simulations indicate that rings around icy objects are not uncommon, due to gravitational interactions that lift the ice off the surface of said objects, to form a ring that revolves around them.

Mars may also have rings at times. Its moon Phobos approaches the red planet by a small margin each year. Within 100 million years, it will be close enough to be torn apart by Mars’ gravity, forming a short-lived ring that could eventually return to the Moon again. Even Saturn’s rings are likely temporary, set to rain slowly on the planet.

If we can examine them in sufficient detail, episodes can be used to piece together certain violent aspects of a planet’s history.

“For us astronomers, they are bloodstains on the walls of a crime scene,” Kane said. “When we look at the rings of the giant planets, it’s evidence that something catastrophic happened to put this material out there.”

Anyway, it may be the case that Big Jupe doesn’t have amazing episodes. Let Saturn have something. Jupiter is already muscular in the shape of a hexagon, after all.

The search has been accepted Planetary Science Journalavailable at arXiv.

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