Why are Saturn's rings so noticeable?


Quick Answer

Scientists speculate that the rings around Saturn are bright because they are young and haven't had time to collect space dust. Space dust would dull the rings around Saturn in much the same way dust dulls the surface of objects on Earth.

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Full Answer

Saturn's rings are made of particles of ice and rock that are caught in orbit around the planet. Jupiter, Neptune and Uranus also have rings, though they are more difficult to see. If scientists are correct in their speculations, this would mean that their rings are older than the rings of Saturn.

Galileo was the first to view Saturn through a telescope in 1610. He incorrectly identified the rings of Saturn as separate planetary bodies. This mistake was corrected in 1659 by Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens, who viewed the rings using a more powerful telescope.

Saturn is the sixth planet from the sun, orbiting at a distance of about 1.4 billion kilometers. It takes 29 Earth years for Saturn to orbit the sun. Saturn is a gaseous planet composed primarily of hydrogen and helium. In addition to seven rings, Saturn is orbited by 53 known moons with an additional 9 moons awaiting confirmation of discovery, as of 2014. Five NASA missions have been sent to Saturn. The Cassini Solstice mission has been exploring Saturn and its moons and rings since 2004.

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