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Who is the Lord of the Rings?
06.24.04
 
Animated drawing of Galileo
Image above: Galileo thought Saturn's rings were ears! Credit: NASA/JPL
Galileo was the first person to see the rings of Saturn. That was almost 400 years ago! He used a telescope to see them.

We have been learning about Saturn's rings ever since. This July, NASA hopes to learn more. This is when the Cassini spacecraft will get to Saturn. We hope it will answer many questions. We have ideas what the answers may be. We hope Cassini will tell us if we are right. Here are some things we want to know:

Image of Saturn from Cassini
Image above: Cassini took this picture of Saturn. Credit: NASA/JPL

Of what are the rings made?

Scientists think that the rings are made up of bits of ice, dust and rock. These bits are trapped in Saturn's gravity.

Why don't other planets have big, bright rings?

The rings around Saturn are very bright. Scientists think that bright rings mean newer rings. This is because the bits that make up the rings collect space dust. Then the rings would get dull. Just like on Earth, dust makes stuff dull.

Jupiter, Neptune and Uranus all have rings. Their rings are dark. Scientists think that dark rings are older. They think that they are darker because they have more dust.
Artistic illustration of Cassini near Saturn
Image above: An artist drew what it may look like when Cassini gets to Saturn. Credit: NASA


In July, Cassini will start to learn about Saturn's rings. We hope to find answers. No matter what we learn, the beauty of Saturn's rings is there for all to see. So, who is the real lord of the rings in our solar system? By far, Saturn rules! Its rings are bigger and brighter. They leave the rings of other planets in the dust.

Find out more about Cassini and his friend Huygens.
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Cartoon characters named Cassini and Huygens
Image above: Meet Cassini and Huygens. Credit: NASA/JPL





 
 
 
Adapted from Saturn: Lord of the Rings