Scientists have uncovered why Jupiter does not have rings like its neighbouring planet Saturn. Researchers from the University of California, Riverside, ran a computer simulation of both Jupiter’s orbits and the four main moons that surrounded it to understand why the giant gaseous planet is missing the hoops.
As per the Independent, astrophysicist Stephen Kane said, “It’s long bothered me why Jupiter doesn’t have even more amazing rings that would put Saturn’s to shame.” He added, “If Jupiter did have them, they’d appear even brighter to us, because the planet is so much closer than Saturn.”
Scientists explained that there are two reasons behind the absent rings: First, Jupiter’s enormous moons prevent them from forming, and secondly, the researchers said that the planet does in fact have smaller rings but are not as substantial as Saturn’s and therefore are difficult to see with the traditional stargazing equipment.
“We found that the Galilean moons of Jupiter, one of which is the largest moon in our solar system, would very quickly destroy any large rings that might form,” said Mr Kane, adding, “As a result, it is unlikely that Jupiter had large rings at any point in its past.”
In simpler words, the scientist believes that the gravitational pull and sheer force of Jupiter’s orbiting moons would’ve obliterated any and all matter attempting to produce Saturn-like rings around the gas giant. “Massive planets form massive moons, which prevents them from having substantial rings,” Mr Kane explained.
Jupiter is made of gas and it is more than twice as massive as every other planet in our solar system combined. It is surrounded by 79 separate moon companions. Researchers explained that even though Saturn’s moon plays a significant role in shaping and maintaining its rings, a large enough moon (or moons) can also gravitationally disrupt rings.
Meanwhile, as per the Independent, Mr Kane next intends to simulate the conditions of Uranus as well. Some astronomers believe that Uranus is tipped on its side as a result of a collision with another celestial body and its rings could be the remnants of that impact. “For us astronomers, [rings] are the blood spatter on the walls of a crime scene. When we look at the rings of giant planets, it’s evidence something catastrophic happened to put that material there,” Professor Kane said.