Concept

Rings of Jupiter

Summary
The planet Jupiter has a system of faint planetary rings. The Jovian rings were the third ring system to be discovered in the Solar System, after those of Saturn and Uranus. The main ring was discovered in 1979 by the Voyager 1 space probe and the system was more thoroughly investigated in the 1990s by the Galileo orbiter. The main ring has also been observed by the Hubble Space Telescope and from Earth for several years. Ground-based observation of the rings requires the largest available telescopes. The Jovian ring system is faint and consists mainly of dust. It has four main components: a thick inner torus of particles known as the "halo ring"; a relatively bright, exceptionally thin "main ring"; and two wide, thick and faint outer "gossamer rings", named for the moons of whose material they are composed: Amalthea and Thebe. The main and halo rings consist of dust ejected from the moons Metis, Adrastea and perhaps smaller, unobserved bodies as the result of high-velocity impacts. High-resolution images obtained in February and March 2007 by the New Horizons spacecraft revealed a rich fine structure in the main ring. In visible and near-infrared light, the rings have a reddish color, except the halo ring, which is neutral or blue in color. The size of the dust in the rings varies, but the cross-sectional area is greatest for nonspherical particles of radius about 15 μm in all rings except the halo. The halo ring is probably dominated by submicrometre dust. The total mass of the ring system (including unresolved parent bodies) is poorly constrained, but is probably in the range of 1011 to 1016 kg. The age of the ring system is also not known, but it is possible that it has existed since the formation of Jupiter. A ring or ring arc appears to exist close to the moon Himalia's orbit. One explanation is that a small moon recently crashed into Himalia and the force of the impact ejected the material that forms the ring. Jupiter's ring system was the third to be discovered in the Solar System, after those of Saturn and Uranus.
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