How Did Saturn Get Its Rings?

did-saturn-its-rings Credit: Elena Duvernay/Stocktrek Images/Stocktrek Images/Getty Images

Scientists are not sure how or when Saturn got its rings, according to NASA. One theory states that comets, asteroids and meteoroids collided with Saturn’s moons, and they all shattered into pieces. The broken pieces then spread out and formed rings around Saturn. Another theory states that the rings formed from materials that were left over when Saturn formed.

Saturn’s rings are made up of billions of ice and rock particles, which vary greatly in size. They range from dust-sized grains to mountain-sized particles. Scientists believe that the rings are about the same age as the solar system, and that the ring particles have been in existence for more than 4 billion years. NASA expects to obtain more information on the formation of Saturn’s rings from its Cassini mission to Saturn, which began in 1997 and is ongoing as of 2014.

Saturn’s rings were first discovered by Galileo Galilei in 1610. They are up to 3,200 feet thick, span up to 175,000 miles and orbit the planet at different speeds. From afar, Saturn appears to have seven large rings, which are named alphabetically from A to G in the order that they were discovered. Some rings are close to each other, while others are separated by large gaps such as the Cassini Division, which measures 2,920 miles.