“It’s long puzzled me why Jupiter doesn’t have even more amazing rings that put Saturn to shame,” said the UCR astrophysicist. Stephen Kanewho led the study.
“If Jupiter had them, they would appear even brighter to us because the planet is much closer than Saturn.” Kane also had questions about whether Jupiter once had fantastic rings and lost them. Ring structures can be temporary.
To understand the reason why Jupiter currently looks the way it does, Kane and his graduate students Zhexing Li performed a dynamic computer simulation that took into account the orbits of Jupiter’s four main moons, as well as the orbit of the planet itself and information on the time it takes for the rings to form. Their results are now online and will soon be published in the journal Planetary Science.
Saturn’s rings are largely ice, some of which may have come from comets, which are also largely ice. If the moons are massive enough, their gravity can throw the ice out of the planet’s orbit, or change the ice’s orbit enough to collide with the moons.
“We found that the Galilean moons of Jupiter, one of the largest moons in our solar system, would very quickly destroy any large rings that might form,” Kane said. As a result, it is unlikely that Jupiter had large rings at any point in its past.
“Massive planets form massive moons, which prevents them from having significant rings,” Kane said.
All four giant planets in our solar system – Saturn, Neptune, Uranus, and also Jupiter – actually have rings. However, the rings of both Neptune and Jupiter are so fragile that they are difficult to see with traditional stargazing instruments.
Coincidentally, some recent images from the recently commissioned James Webb Space Telescope included images of Jupiter with faint rings visible.
“We didn’t know these ephemeral rings existed until the Voyager spacecraft passed by because we couldn’t see them,” Kane said.
Uranus has rings that are not as large but more prominent than Saturn’s. Next, Kane plans to run simulations of conditions on Uranus to see what the life of the planet’s rings might be.
Some astronomers believe that Uranus fell on its side as a result of the planet’s collision with another celestial body. Its tires may be remnants of a collision.
Beyond beauty, the rings help astronomers understand the planet’s history by providing evidence of collisions with moons or comets that may have occurred in the past. The shape and size of the rings and the composition of the material give indications of the type of event that formed them.
“To us astronomers, they’re blood spatter on the walls of a crime scene. When we look at the rings of giant planets, that’s evidence that something catastrophic happened when the material was deposited there,” Kane said.
Source: The Nordic Page