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Questions about Saturn's rings

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posted on Aug, 24 2008 @ 05:36 PM
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I was thinking, our moon controls our earth, without it, the planet wouldnt be the same, obviously. And I kinda assume that Saturn's rings control the way that planet works, too, right? Despite it being gas anyhow, maybe it only controls the gas, the solid core, or both, whatever, but it has to have some effect.


So wondering, what would happen if a bunch of stuff, over time, fell into orbit around earth? We fire up satellites and drop them into orbit, but theres only a limited number of them, so what if earth had enough crap up there, man-made or not, to develop its own ring system? Can anything natural fall into orbit without actually hitting earth?




posted on Aug, 24 2008 @ 06:09 PM
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We kind of do have a ring system; a ring system of space junk and debris we leave up there! It still orbits the earth an occasionally causes problems from space crews.

Apart from that, it's very unlikely that an object from space would fall in and begin orbiting, it would need an exact angle and velocity to avoid just flying straight past or getting pulled into the atmosphere and fried!

Short of creating artificial rings for whatever reason I think we'll be forever ring-less!



posted on Aug, 26 2008 @ 06:54 AM
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Hi Schmidt,

Here's some answers to your questions:


Originally posted by Schmidt1989
I was thinking, our moon controls our earth, without it, the planet wouldnt be the same, obviously. And I kinda assume that Saturn's rings control the way that planet works, too, right?

No! You must remember that the Moon is a much larger fraction of the Earths mass than the rings of Saturn are with the planet itself. while our Moon is made of solid rock, the rings of Saturn are composed of millions of partlces ranging in size from boulders to small lumps of rock and ice. All of them are in orbit about Saturn and kept in place by Saturn's strong gravitational field and the gravitational fields of the 'Shepherd' Moons.


Originally posted by Schmidt1989
Despite it being gas anyhow, maybe it only controls the gas, the solid core, or both, whatever, but it has to have some effect.

What do you mean by 'controls the gas'? All of Staurn's atmosphere, the liquid hydrogen and helium and core and so on are kept in place by the gravitational field of Staurn. Since the planets is largely compose dof gas, it rotates quuicker at the equator than at the poles giving Staurn a rather bloated look. Theses effetcs are far more stronger than any effect the rings would have!


Originally posted by Schmidt1989
So wondering, what would happen if a bunch of stuff, over time, fell into orbit around earth? We fire up satellites and drop them into orbit, but theres only a limited number of them, so what if earth had enough crap up there, man-made or not, to develop its own ring system? Can anything natural fall into orbit without actually hitting earth?


No no! You see it depends where the orbit is. The rings of Staurn are around the equator for a reason- orbits of moons are generally (for grabitational reasons) around the equator. Now each planet has something called a Roche limit- this is the closest point to a body for which a satellite can orbit without being torn apart by the larger body's gravitational field. So it seems that at some point in the past, a moon strayed to close to Saturn, went past the roche limit and got brocken up into the spectacular ring system we see today.

Now, many of the satellites are not in equatorial orbits. These orbits have to be maintained otherwise they slow down due to atmospheric drag and as a result come closer toi the earth. AIn the end they spiral down to earth and if they are large enough crash onto the surface (smaller ones may just burn bup in the atmosphere producing a meteor).

So in order to make a ring like Staurn's we have two choices
(1) A large enough satellite would have to approach the Earth's Roche limit and break up (this would be bad news for us on the surface!)

(2). Make a ring out of natural material- but you would need a hell of a lot, and you would have to put in orbit yourself- the satellites up there would not naturally drift into such an orbit.

Hope this helps!

(bb code)

[edit on 26-8-2008 by Jbird]



posted on Aug, 26 2008 @ 12:28 PM
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timelike,

Fantastic post! Major help, I had never heard of the Roche limit.

Hypothetically speaking, if we had somehow obtained a ring system, how would the ring system affect the earth's surface? Could we have a ring system like Neptune, where the rings are vertical, but keep our moon circling us vertically? Or would the rings have to follow the moon? (ignoring the fact that the moon would collide with anything in the rings.)



posted on Aug, 27 2008 @ 04:27 AM
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Hi Schmidt1989


Originally posted by Schmidt1989
timelike,

Fantastic post! Major help, I had never heard of the Roche limit.


No Problem...


Originally posted by Schmidt1989
Hypothetically speaking, if we had somehow obtained a ring system, how would the ring system affect the earth's surface?


I rather suppose that depends on what it's made of, but if it was made of the usual ring material, I think the effect would be tiny. The ring would orbit around the equator so there might be a tiny gravitational effect on the surface under the rings. I doubt anyone would notice. There may be some electrostatic effects on the clouds but I'm not 100% sure about that.
So in short, apart from an interesting view from the equatorial regions, no one would really notice!


Originally posted by Schmidt1989
Could we have a ring system like Neptune, where the rings are vertical, but keep our moon circling us vertically? Or would the rings have to follow the moon? (ignoring the fact that the moon would collide with anything in the rings.)


I didn't really know what you mean by this. I think you actually mean Uranus whose rings are at 98 degrees to the ecliptic. However you must understand that Uranus as a whole is tilted 98 degrees, so the rings are still following the equator- it's just that the equator is at more than a right angle (i.e. verticle from our perspective) as well. The moons of Uranus all orbit in the equatorial region like the rings (though not necessarily in the same direction, some captured satellites rotate in the oppositite direction to the rest of the moons)

Rings form in the equatorial regions of planets, this is also the same region where natural satellites orbit the parent planet as well. The details for this are a little complicated, but they are standard orbital mechanics.

Hope this helps.

[edit on 27-8-2008 by timelike]



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