In fact, Jupiter must have powerful rings, even more magnificent than those of Saturn. But it’s missing from the massive gas planet, which astronomer Stephen Kane of the University of California at Riverside couldn’t get out of his head. Together with Zhexing Li, he analyzed the reasons for the lack of rings for Jupiter. Their study, published so far on arXiv, refers to the planet’s four large moons: They prevented the formation of loops.
The astronomers used a dynamic model in which they simulated the orbits of the four major moons and the planet itself. Modeling extended the time periods needed to form dust rings. Saturn’s rings, for example, are mostly made up of ice, some of which come from comets, which are also mostly frozen water. When the moons are massive and large enough, their gravity can remove ice from the planet’s orbit or change the orbit of matter so that it eventually collides with the moons.
Saturn has about 80 moons, which is slightly more than Jupiter. However, this contains four very large satellites, while Titan is the only heavyweight orbiting the ringed planet. “We found that the Galilean moons of Jupiter, one of the largest in our solar system, would quickly destroy any large rings. And that’s before they formed properly,” says Kane. Therefore, Jupiter is unlikely to have had large rings at any time in the past.
All four major planets in our solar system – Saturn, Neptune, Uranus, and Jupiter – actually have rings. However, both the rings of Neptune and the rings of Jupiter are too thin to image with regular observing instruments. However, faint rings of Jupiter can be seen in some images from the newly commissioned James Webb Space Telescope.
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