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name with simble Mercury Venus Earth Mars Jupiter Saturn Uranus Neptune Pluto and beyond
Mercury Venus Our Earth Mars Jupiter Saturn Uranus Neptune Pluto and beyond

© Don Dixon, Cosmographica
Painting by Don Dixon, Cosmographica

The Jewel of the Solar System

Few places in the solar system look more beautiful and mysterious than Saturn. Its glittering rings dazzle the eye.

The Ringed World

Particles of ice form a complex set of rings that circle gas giant Saturn. The planet belches clouds of ammonia ice crystals from deep within its atmosphere.

Pieces of Rings

Saturn’s rings stretch out nearly 300,000 miles from the planet’s cloud tops. The ring particles—which range in size from tiny dust grains to icy boulders—are shepherded into ringlets by Saturn’s inner moons.

Saturn’s ring system is so thin that it almost disappears when we view it edge-on from Earth. The Hubble Space Telescope took these two views at different times during Saturn’s 29.5-year orbit.

Iapetus: One Moon With Two Faces

One side of Saturn’s icy moon Iapetus is bright and cratered. The other has something dark and red smeared across its frigid landscape. This mysterious coating might be the result of methane erupting from beneath the surface. It is also possible that Iapetus sweeps up material ejected by another moon.

The Short Lives of Planetary Rings

© NASA/JPLSaturn is not the only planet with rings. Jupiter (left) is encircled by a stream of dust from its inner moons. Radiation and bombardments would destroy this ring in a thousand years if not for the constant supply of new dust from the moons. The shattered pieces of nearby moons also created Saturn’s glittering rings, plus the systems circling Uranus and Neptune. A ring of debris may have surrounded Earth for less than a hundred years after our Moon formed.