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Sunday, November 29, 2009

If the Earth had rings...

...it would possibly look like what Roy Prol has cooked up in this 3D animation. Prol took into account the Roche limit for Earth's mass to calculate the size and distance of the rings from the surface, and also how the rings would look from various latitudes on Earth.

Check it out!

Thanks to Shane Thacker for this thought-provoking and beautiful find.


Todd W in NC said...

I saw this a few days ago and thought it looked pretty cool. Kind of makes me wish we did have rings. ;)

Two things it makes me wonder though:

(1) If it's the gravitational pull of the moon that causes waves in the ocean (from what I've heard; I admit I'm not an expert on the topic), what would the effect of rings have on waves.

(2) Granted, we don't have a lot to go on, and maybe there are exceptions outside our solar system, but why does it seem that rings occur around gas giants but not around terrestrial planets? Are the typical terrestrial planets even large or dense enough to attract ring material into their orbit?

Chris Knight said...

Hey Todd,
If the Earth had a ring system, there probably would be no Moon. However Saturn has numerous small "shepherd" moons that many astronomers speculate are what maintain its rings in such perfect order. So I suppose it's possible that Earth could have rings and the Moon as well...

So far as your other question, it might be because of the Roche limit of the gas giants making it so much easier for a smaller body to get crushed and then the material forming a ring system orbiting such a large planet. Theoretically it should be *any* body large enough to have a Roche limit (including Earth).

Kinda on a tangent: lately astronomers are thinking that it would take only a century of our time for a rocky core to gather enough gaseous mass to form a planet like Jupiter or Saturn. Location is the key: there has to be enough matter to be "swept up" in the area. That said, I could see how a ring system could form relatively quickly around a body of sufficient mass.