In 1610, Galileo, the man who first explored the heavens with a telescope, first noticed something strange about Saturn—it seemed to have things sticking out of its sides!
In 1655, a man called Christian Huygens studied Saturn with a better telescope, and he saw something so strange he was afraid to tell anyone about it! So he set down his observations in a code, which, when translated. says: “It is girdled by a thin fiat ring, nowhere touching, inclined to the ecliptic”.
The rings of the planet Saturn, so startling to the first men who noticed them, still remain one of the great mysteries of our solar system. In fact, as far as is known, such rings exist nowhere else in the heavens.
Of course, aside from the rings, we do know certain things about the planet Saturn. It takes [email protected] years to go around the sun, it is second in size to Jupiter, and it has nine satellites that revolve around it. It has an atmosphere around it that we cannot penetrate, but what we do see is not solid matter. There may be some rocky metallic material at the core of the planet.
And it has those mysterious rings. There are three train rings all on the same plane (like three rings you might make on an 8at dish), and they lie in the plane of Saturn’s equator. The rings extend outward for about 170,0011 miles.
The middle ring is the brightest. It is separated from the outer ring by a gap about 1,800 miles wide. The inner ring is very dim. Other faint outer rings have been detected by spacecraft and one may even extend from the inside ring almost down to the cloud tops of the planet.
The rings are not solid but are composed of pieces of ice-coated rubble orbiting the planet like tiny “moonlets’. They may be fragments of a moon that has never been formed.
Which Of The Planets Have Rings?
The most prominent and most famous planetary rings in the Solar System are those around Saturn, but the other three giant planets (Jupiter, Uranus, and Neptune) also have ring systems.