47 votes

Is it possible for planetary rings to be perpendicular (or near perpendicular) to the planet's orbit around the host star?

Yes, the plane of the rings of Uranus are at about 98 degrees to the plane of its orbit around the Sun. This means that the ring system looks as in your picture twice per orbit. As the planet orbits ...
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  • 118k
29 votes

Is it possible for planetary rings to be perpendicular (or near perpendicular) to the planet's orbit around the host star?

I posted a few animations, just to make sure :) The image is hopefully obviously not to scale. This is possible: and is, in fact, not far from what Uranus is doing. The animation above was produced ...
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23 votes
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Which Saturn satellite passes closest to Saturn's rings and at what distance?

Pan, Daphnis, and various other moonlets, I would argue, are inside the rings. If you explicitly discount the Encke gap (which Pan orbits in) and the Keeler gap (which Daphnis orbits in) as being ...
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  • 3,958
21 votes
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Why Earth does not have rings?

A moon is held together by its own gravity, and pulled apart by the tidal action of a planet. If a moon comes too close to a planet it will be ripped apart by the planet's gravity and become a ring. ...
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  • 91k
14 votes

Do/Can Ringed Stars Exist?

In a sense, that is what a circumstellar disk is. Source: European Southern Observatory (ESO) These are usually most noticeable around young stars as protoplanetary disks, disks that form planets. ...
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  • 6,104
14 votes

Hypothetically, would we be able to see the moon from Saturn's North Pole?

First of all, at that distance seeing the Moon and seeing the Earth amounts to the same thing. At its closest, Saturn is around 3000 times as far from Earth as the Moon is, so viewed from Saturn, the ...
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  • 7,390
13 votes

Which star did Uranus occult in 1977 when the planet's rings were discovered?

From wikipedia, the rings of uranus The definitive discovery of the Uranian Rings [...] use[d] the occultation of the star SAO 158687[...] The star SAO 158687, also cataloged as HD 128598 is a ...
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  • 91k
12 votes
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Hypothetically, would we be able to see the moon from Saturn's North Pole?

Yes, if you observe Earth and the Moon at a favorable time. Near a Saturn summer solstice, e.g. between 2012 and 2022, Earth appears well above the horizon from Saturn's north pole. If the planet body ...
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  • 16.6k
11 votes
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Can a star have a ring system?

They certainly can. A ring is often formed around a celestial body when its gravity rips apart another smaller celestial body. The Sun is really massive, so it could destroy any object that is not ...
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  • 793
11 votes
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How long do planetary rings last?

It appears (and I am no expert) that Saturn's ring evolution is governed mainly by "viscous spreading" - collisions between ring particles; and also by interactions with Saturn's moons (resonances); ...
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  • 118k
11 votes

Will Saturn's rings become a moon?

The currently leading answer is correct to say that moon formation inside the Roche limit is unlikely. However, the disk is evolving due to viscosity between the particles, and as a consequence it "...
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  • 118k
11 votes
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Can planetary rings form as a result of solidifed lava thrown up by volcanoes on the surface of small rocky moons/planets?

This doesn't seem to occur in our solar system. The most volcanic body, Io, does create a trail of gas around its orbit of Jupiter, but has no ringlike structure of its own. As uhoh notes, orbital ...
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  • 91k
10 votes

Could a cross-ringed planet exist?

While such a scenario would be unlikely, all you'd need is an existing ring and an icy moon to enter inside the Roche limit at a measurably different inclination. I wouldn't want to guess how long a ...
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  • 22.9k
10 votes
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Size of Saturn's ring material

The vast majority of the particles in Saturn's rings are small, on the order of $\sim10^{-1}$ m or lower. The columnar number density, according to data from Voyager 1 and Earth-based observations, ...
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  • 34.1k
9 votes
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Is there, in fact, any close-up photography of Saturn's rings, showing individual pebbles/rocks?

The rings are about 3% solid in the densest parts, but this translates to a separation between 30cm particles of about 1metre. There are no images Because approaching the dense part of the rings would ...
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  • 91k
9 votes
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Why Only Saturn Has Visible Rings

By "visible to the naked eye", I take it you mean "visible from Earth with a small telescope". Saturn's rings are largely water ice, and so they reflect more sunlight back to us. Jupiter's rings, ...
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  • 327
9 votes

Hypothetically, would we be able to see the moon from Saturn's North Pole?

For these kind of questions, you might want to use Stellarium, a free open source planetarium. You can specify the location of the observer on many celestial bodies, including Saturn. Any time ...
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  • 1,105
8 votes
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Can there be elliptical rings around a planet?

Short answer: no. Long answer: There are many collisions within ring systems, and collisions always work, over time, to push orbits to a circular shape (or destroy the rings). Any deviations tend to ...
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7 votes
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Do planetary rings always follow rotational axis?

Nearly always. The asymmetric gravity of a spinning (and hence oblate) planet will induce tides that can pull small moons and ring particles into orbit around its equator in a few million years. If ...
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  • 91k
7 votes

Can Earth have a ring?

Most planets don't have rings. The ring region is inside the Roche limit which is quite close to the planet. A ring system outside the Roche limit needs to be either very faint or, it would over ...
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  • 22.9k
7 votes
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Can an asteroid have rings?

The simple answer is yes, an asteroid can have rings. The current known example is 10199 Chariklo, whose rings were discovered in 2014 (see Braga-Ribas et al. (2014)). It actually has two rings, at ...
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  • 34.1k
6 votes
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Could a cross-ringed planet exist?

The answer is a bit more complex than what userLTK presents. Tides play a huge role for the orientation of the rings. If the ring system has an inclination relative towards the planet, then ...
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6 votes

How dense are Saturn's rings?

The denser rings are actually very comparable in mass density to that of air. Because of their larger particle/particulate sizes, the number density is much much smaller. e.g. Ring A: Radius ~ 137,...
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6 votes
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How unusual is the solar system?

First, Azimov was writing (Edge 1982, and Earth 1986) before the first extra solar planets were tentatively detected (1989), or definitely detected 1991 or 1992. So what he wrote could not be based on ...
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6 votes

How do a planet's moons and a planet's rings interact?

First, there are different types of rings. Using saturn as an example: there are icy particles, dust bands and more. These interact differently if they were to hit a moon, for example enceladus. ...
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6 votes
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Can Jupiter's rings be seen with the naked eye by an astronaut nearby? How difficult would it be?

Here is an answer based on photometric arguments: The astronaut probably would not be able to see the rings, but it would be worth a try. I would recommend the astronaut float somewhere at a distance ...
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  • 1,774
5 votes
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Why does Saturn have both moons and rings?

You're right that density is the important thing here. The Roche limit is the distance from the main body $d$ such that $$d=1.26R_M\left(\frac{\rho_M}{\rho_m}\right)^{\frac{1}{3}}$$ where $_M$ denotes ...
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  • 34.1k
5 votes
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Are the radial spokes in Saturn's rings reliably visible via ground-based telescopes

Bryan (2007) gives a number of reasons why O'Meara's discovery was largely discounted: As you stated, the behavior was entirely inconsistent with Keplerian predictions of motion. While O'Meara was ...
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  • 34.1k
5 votes
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Can planetary rings distort the shape of a planet?

Question: Could the gravitational force of Earthly rings distort the Earth to make it more oval shaped at the equator? Short Answer: Yes This makes sense to me as when the moon is whole, all the mass ...
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5 votes

Can planetary rings distort the shape of a planet?

The gravitational field near the center of a thin narrow ring of mass, $M_r$, and radius, $R_r$, is $H_z = -GM_rz/{(z^2+R_r^2)^{3/2}}$ for the z-directed field on the z-axis. Near the center, $(z,r) \...
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