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How Many Rings Does Saturn Have?

How many rings does Saturn have?

ANSWER:

Though Saturn does have rings, scientists cannot establish the exact number.

More Info: Saturn is the sixth planet in orbit around our sun.  Named after Roman god of agriculture, Saturn is a gas giant with a vast number of moons and a ring system. It is the furthest planet from Earth that is visible with the naked eye.  The planet and its natural satellites have been observed by astronomers using telescopes and other instruments, including the Hubble Space Telescope.  There have also been four satellite missions to Saturn, Pioneer 11, Voyager 1, Voyager 2, and the Cassini probe currently orbiting until 2017.

Who Found Saturn’s Rings?

Saturn’s rings were first noticed by Galileo.  The ancient astronomer thought he was seeing a three part planet, it was only discovered later that the objects were rings.  Pioneer 11 and both Voyager crafts passed by Saturn on their separate paths out of the solar system.  Each craft was able to detect and photograph new details about Saturn, its moons, and its rings.  The Cassini probe has given us the best images of Saturn’s rings despite its instruments being inactive as the probe moved through one of the lager gaps between rings.

How Many Rings Are There?

After many years of study and increasing image clarity, an exact count of the number of rings around Saturn is still impossible.  Some rings are larger than others and orbit at different speeds.  Because of this, some rings are fainter than others.  There are divisions between the rings that have helped astronomers group them for identification.  Depending on how you define the rings and the gaps between them, the count of discovered rings can be somewhere between eight and 30 rings.

What Are The Rings Made Of?

The rings are composed mostly of ice and icy materials.  The materials in the rings range in size from dust particles to objects with mountainous dimensions.  A number of moons have also been discovered inside the rings, their gravities helping to keep the rings intact.

 

Resources

“Solar System Exploration: Planets: Saturn: Overview.” Solar System Exploration. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Dec. 2012.  http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/profile.cfm?Object=Saturn

“How Many Rings Does Saturn Have?.” Universe Today — Space and astronomy news. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Dec. 2012.  http://www.universetoday.com/38097/how-many-rings-does-saturn-have/

“Ask an Astronomer for KIDS! – How many rings does Saturn have?.” Welcome to Cool Cosmos!. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Dec. 2012.  http://coolcosmos.ipac.caltech.edu/cosmic_kids/AskKids/saturnrings_number.shtml

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