Why are Saturn rings so well defined

Saturn

Saturn in 2004, recorded with a space probe. The rings consist of small particles of ice or rock.

Saturn is a planet in our solar system. Seen from the sun, it is the sixth of a total of eight planets. Its orbit is between that of Jupiter and that of Uranus. It takes 29 earth years to orbit the sun, which would then be a "Saturn year". To do this, it rotates particularly quickly around its own axis, ie around itself. The earth needs 24 hours for this, Saturn can do it in a good ten hours.

So that you get an idea of ​​the sizes in the solar system: If the sun were a large exercise ball, Saturn would be an apple, the earth a cherry. The "Saturn apple" would circle around the "exercise ball sun" at a distance of about 1,300 meters. That is about ten times as far from the sun as the earth.

Like all four outer planets, it is a gas planet. It has a small hard core, otherwise it mainly consists of the gases hydrogen and helium. In the solar system only the planet Jupiter is bigger.

What's up with the rings of Saturn?

Saturn was already known in ancient times. Its name comes from a Roman god who was important for agriculture. It was not until the 17th century that astronomy found out that it has rings and also moons. The rings in particular were difficult to see. They are so thin that you can hardly see them from the side.

The rings are composed of over 100,000 individual rings. They consist of small dust particles up to larger chunks. These circle around Saturn, just like a moon. The inner rings need at least six hours for this, the outer rings up to fourteen hours. It is not known exactly how the rings came about. Apparently they are as old as Saturn itself.

The Saturn moon Titan was discovered in 1655. It is also by far the largest moon on Saturn, larger than the moon on Earth and larger than the planet Mercury. Half of titanium is made of ice, which is why it is much lighter than Mercury, for example. Today we know more than 60 moons of Saturn.

  • This is how an astronomer drew Saturn around 350 years ago.

  • The small black circle is the moon Titan, with Saturn in the background

  • Mimas is another of over 60 Saturn moons

  • That is how big the earth would look compared to Saturn.