Jupiter, the fifth planet in our solar system and by far the most massive, is a treasure trove of scientific discovery. Two studies last year found that the planet’s Great Red Spot is 40 times deeper than the Mariana Trench, the deepest site on the planet. In April, the authors of a research paper in Nature Communications studied a double ridge in northwest Greenland with the same gravimetric geometry as that on Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons, and concluded that the likelihood of life on Europa is greater than expected.
Scientists now believe they’ve discovered another great mystery of Jupiter, which is why it lacks the amazing rings that its celestial neighbor, Saturn, boasts. Being a massive gas giant with a similar composition, the evolution of the two planets is thought to be similar – meaning that why one has a prominent ring system and the other hasn’t always been so elusive.
Study finds that a giant planet may have “escaped” from our solar system
With results currently available online and soon to be published in Planetary Science, researchers from the University of California Riverside have used modeling to determine that Jupiter’s massive moons nip potential ring formation in the bud.
Using computer simulations that interpret the orbits of each of Jupiter’s four moons, astrophysicist Stephen Kane and graduate student Zixing Li realized that these moons’ gravity would alter the orbit of any ice that might come from a comet and eventually prevent it from accumulating in such a way. A way to form rings, as happened with Saturn. Instead, the moons will either fling the ice away from the planet’s orbit or pull the ice toward a collision path with itself.
This not only explains why Jupiter has the smallest number of rings at present; It is suggested that he likely did not have large rings.
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There is more at stake here than simply understanding why Jupiter’s aesthetics differ from those of Saturn. As Kane explained in a statement, the planet’s rings contain many clues about that planet’s history. They can help scientists understand things that may have collided with a planet in the past, or perhaps the type of event that shaped them.
“For us astronomers, they’re bloodstains on the walls of a crime scene. When we look at the rings of giant planets, it’s evidence that something catastrophic has happened to put this substance out there,” Kane explained.
Scientists say they do not plan to end their astronomical investigation of Jupiter. Their next stop is Uranus, which also has trivial rings. Researchers speculate that Uranus, which appears to be tilted on its side, may lack rings due to its collision with another celestial body.
Technically, Jupiter has a ring system, it’s incredibly small and dim. In fact, Jupiter’s rings are so small that scientists didn’t discover them until 1979, when the Voyager space probe passed by the gas giant. There are three faint rings, all made of dust particles emitted by nearby moons – a flat main ring 20 miles thick and 4,000 miles wide, and a cake-shaped inner ring more than 12,000 miles thick. – It’s called “Gosamer” which is actually three much smaller rings made up of microscopic debris from nearby moons.
NASA itself has expressed amazement at the weak rings that accompany the most visible giant in our solar system – in particular, in the size of the particles that make up them.
“These grains are very small, and a thousand of them combined are only one millimeter long,” NASA wrote. This makes them as small as the particles in cigarette smoke.
By contrast, Saturn’s rings are famous for their beauty, and some of the particles in those rings are “as big as mountains.” When the Cassini space probe finally took a closer look at Saturn’s rings, it found “arcs” longer than Earth’s diameter and likely made of ice – as well as water jets from Saturn’s moon Enceladus, which will provide much of the material in the planet’s electronic ring.
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