25 Facts and Stunning Pictures About Saturn's Rings | List25
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Saturn is one of the most fascinating planets to professional and amateur astronomers alike. Much of our interest in the planet comes from its distinctive and iconic ring structure. Though not visible to the naked eye, anyone with even a weak telescope can make out the impressive rings. Though we may see the structures as one, massively wide ring orbiting around the planet, Saturn's ring system is made up of a variety of different rings, all varying in density, thickness, and width. (The largest ring we've found is 12 million miles (7.4 million kms) wide.)
Made up primarily of ice water, Saturn's rings are held in orbit by the complex gravitational influences of the gas giant and its moons - some of which are actually located within the rings! The facts about Saturn's rings are made ever more vivid and real when accompanied by the pictures taken by countless telescopes and passing spacecraft. While we have learned much about the rings since they were first discovered 400 years ago, we are constantly improving our knowledge. (The furthest ring was only discovered a decade ago.) Be inspired with their beauty and majesty in these 25 Facts and Stunning Pictures About Saturn's Rings.
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In 1610, famous astronomer and church enemy Galileo Galilei was the first person to point his telescope at Saturn. He noted seeing odd, ear-like shapes at the planet's side. Since his telescope was not powerful enough, he didn't realize the view was of Saturn's rings.
Saturn's rings are made of billions of pieces of ice and rock, ranging in size from a grain of salt to a small mountain.
We can see five planets with the naked eye: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. To see Saturn's rings rather than just a ball of light, you'll need a telescope with at least 20 times magnification.
The rings are named alphabetically based on their date of discovery. Closest to the planet is the D ring, then comes the C, B, A, F, Janus/Epimetheus, G, Pallene, and E rings.
Saturn's rings are believed to be remnants from passing comets (primarily), asteroids, or broken-up moons - largely because 93% of their mass is water in ice form.
The first person to actually see and identify Saturn's rings was Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens in 1655. At the time, he proposed the gas giant had one solid, thin, and flat ring.
Geysers shooting out of the moon Enceladus' surface have contributed ice to the E ring. The moon is important to us as it contains oceans which may harbor life.
Each of the rings orbits around Saturn at a different speed.
Saturn's rings are the best-known in the solar system, but the other gas giant (Jupiter) and the ice giants (Neptune & Uranus) also have rings.
A planet's rings can act as a historical record, showing evidence of comets and meteors that plow through them on their way to impact the planet. Scientists studying Saturn's C ring have found ripples in its layers.
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