What are The Rings Around Saturn?

In 1610, Galileo, the man who first explored the heavens with a telescope first noticed something strange about Saturn—it seemed to have sting sticking out of its sides! In 1655, a man called Christian Huygens studied Saturn with a better telescope, and he saw something too strange he was afraid to tell anyone about it!

So he set down his observations is a code, which when translated, says: "it is girdled by a thin flag ring, nowhere touching, inclined to the ecliptic". The rings of the planet Saturn, so startling to the first men who noticed them, still remain of the one 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 29 ½ 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 main rings all on the same plane (like three rings you might make on a flat dish), and they lie in the plane of Saturn’s equator. The rings extend outward for about 170,000 miles.

The middle ring is the brightest. It is separated from the outer ring by a gap about 1,800 miles wide. The inner rings 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 could 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 which has never been formed.

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