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Podcaster: Maanvinder Pilania

Title: Ring System Around Astronomical Objects

Organization: Astrophysics: Deep In The Space

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Description

Talking about the ring system, the only astronomical body that comes up in the mind of peoples is the planet Saturn which has a ring system which can be seen easily with the help of a telescope. But did you know that Saturn is not the only one that has these jewels.

Bio: My name is Maanvinder Pilania. I’m a writer, student and host of Astrophysics: Deep In The Space With Maanvinder Pilania podcast.

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Transcript:

Hi & welcome to the 365 Days of Astronomy. I’m Maanvinder Pilania, your host for today’s episode. Today I will tell you about the astronomical objects that have a ring system around them.

Talking about the ring system, the only astronomical body that comes up in the mind of peoples is the planet Saturn which has a ring system which can be seen easily with the help of a telescope. But did you know that Saturn is not the only one that has these jewels. Even there is a planet which has a ring system bigger than that of the Saturn. All thanks to modern astronomy, which have been successful in finding such objects which have a ring system with the help of spacecrafts and telescopes. In the past we thought that Saturn is the only astronomical object that is known to have a ring system but now we knows other planets that include Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune also have a ring system. Ring system can also be found around other astronomical objects such as moons, asteroids. A ring system is basically a ring of dust or small moonlets orbiting around a astronomical object. The composition of ring particles varies: they maybe silicate or icy dust.

Galileo Galilei was the first person who observed rings around Saturn and described that Saturn have ‘ears’. In a letter to the Duke of Tuscany he wrote “the planet is not alone, but is composed of three, which almost touch one another and never move or change with respect to one another…” The rings around Saturn were not considered as rings until Christian Huygens did so in the year 1665 and published his ring theory in Systema Saturnium in 1659.

The very first question that came in my mind when I was 13 was that what may have formed these rings? At the time, I had no answer of that question but now I don’t have one answer but actually I have three answers what astronomers says is the reason behind the formation of these ring system.

One theory states that the rings were formed from the material in the proto-planetary disk which was in the Roche limit of planet and thus it was not able to coalesce to form moons. Roche limit is the distance from a celestial body, held together only by its own force of gravity, will disintegrate because the first body’s tidal forces exceed the second body’s gravitational self-attraction. That’s the main reason why there is a thick ring system around Saturn because all that material lies within the roche limit of this planet and could not coalesce into Moons.

Another theory is that rings were formed form the debris of a big moon that was disrupted by a large impact. But my favorite one is that states the rings were formed from the debris of a moon which passed within the planet’s Roche limit. It is also predicted that Phobos, one of two moons of Mars will break up and form into a planetary ring in about 50 million years. 

Jupiter ring system was discovered by the Voyager-1 probe and is primarily composed of dust. Rings have also been found around the two ice giants Neptune & Uranus.  The rings of Neptune are similar to those of low density regions of rings around Saturn that means they are faint and dusty much similar like those of Jupiter. Rings around Uranus were discovered in the year 1977. Hubble Space Telescope observations has revealed that there are total 13 rings most of which are few kilometers wide and are likely consist of water ice.

10199 Chariklo was the first centaur discovered to have a ring system. It has two rings. Observations have revealed that it has about 12 mile wide ring system and is about 1000 times closer than Moon is to the Earth.

Haumea was the first dwarf planet discovered to have a ring system. It has one ring. The ring has a radius of about 2287 km. It is also the first trans-Neptunian object discovered to have a ring system. A trans-Neptunian object is an astronomical object that is found beyond the orbit of Neptune.

I told you about the objects that are found in our solar system and have a ring system but there’s one more astronomical object on my list that is located beyond our solar system. It’s an exoplanet.

J1407b is an exoplanet located about 433 light years in the constellation Centaurus. It was discovered in 2012 and is 20 times more massive than the Saturn. Saturn is known to have a beautiful ring system in our solar system but J1407b does not lag behind in this too. It has a ring system bigger than that of Saturn which spans 180 million kilometers wide. That’s larger than the Sun-Earth distance of 150 million kilometers.  It has about 30 rings and if Saturn would have these rings it would have dominated our night sky. This makes it the Lord of rings. This exoplanet has so many rings because it is young and once it will age, most of its rings will coalesce into moons.  That’s from me for this week….

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