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Andrew

Astronomy question

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Which planets in our solar system have rings?

I'm asking on behalf of my 7 year old son, a budding young scientist, passionate about dinosaurs but interested in astronomy, too. We were reading a book about the planets tonight, and its illustrations showed rings around Saturn, Uranus, Jupiter, and Neptune. He and I were aware that the first two had rings, but not the others; ergo, we were wondering at the accuracy of this illustration.

(Tim, I figure you know the answer to this question, but anyone else is welcome to reply, too, of course.)

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Andrew wrote:

: I'm asking on behalf of my 7 year old son, a budding young scientist,

: passionate about dinosaurs but interested in astronomy, too.

He must be a big fan of those movie clips where comets smash into the earth and wipe out the giant lizards, eh? smile.gif

: We were reading a book about the planets tonight, and its illustrations

: showed rings around Saturn, Uranus, Jupiter, and Neptune. He and I

: were aware that the first two had rings, but not the others; ergo, we

: were wondering at the accuracy of this illustration.

Ah, I remember being 7 (or 8 or 9 or 10 or whatever) myself and being told that all our portraits of Jupiter would have to change to reflect the recent discovery (made by one of the Voyager probes, perhaps?) that that planet had rings too. So yeah, this sounds accurate.

FWIW, I just checked my DVDs of Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) and 2010: The Year We Make Contact (1984) and couldn't find any trace of Jupiter's ring there -- so apparently it took a while for this discovery to work its way into the popular consciousness.

There is also the NASA site, which has pages devoted to the solar system's ring systems.

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I'm glad you asked this as I always found astronomy interesting, and I managed to dfind out some new facts.

The web sites seem to confirm wht the book says (as I suspected). There are four planets with rings (the giant / Jovian planets Jupiter Saturn. Uranus and Neptune).

But also they're now starting to talk about the ninth planet, fka PLuto actually being a bi-planet system of two planets Pluto & Charon. Now that's interesting. Does your book cover that? Tim do you know lots about this stuff or do you just have a cool avatar?

Matt

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Peter T Chattaway wrote:

: FWIW, I just checked my DVDs of Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)

: and 2010: The Year We Make Contact (1984) and couldn't find any trace

: of Jupiter's ring there -- so apparently it took a while for this discovery to

: work its way into the popular consciousness.

FWIW, last night I watched Alien Resurrection (1997) and was surprised to see a glimpse of Jupiter in that film too -- and once again, there was no ring!

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Thanks, gentlemen -- I knew I could count on some help from the fine people here. That's a nifty link, Peter; I'll have to show it to Jonathan when I have a chance. (BTW, he did love Dinosaur and its combo of dino/astronomy themes. His favorite dino films by far, though, are Jurassic Park III -- because it has spinosaurus! -- and BBC's Walking with Dinosaurs.)

I hadn't thought about 2010 for ages. I loved it as a teen (saw it twice on the big screen), and was wowed by the planetary imagery it contained. I wonder if it would hold the same appeal now?

Thanks, Matt, for the bit about Pluto. I didn't know that. When I mentioned to my son that some scientists think our solar system has ten planets, he immediately asked, "Is it Charon?" A proud dad moment, to be sure... smile.gif

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Andrew wrote:

: I hadn't thought about 2010 for ages. I loved it as a teen (saw it twice on

: the big screen), and was wowed by the planetary imagery it contained. I

: wonder if it would hold the same appeal now?

FWIW, I still really really like the planetary imagery in that film, and was drawn to it yesterday even as I skipped ahead through the various chapters. The last time I saw the film in its entirety was two years ago, when I saw it right after seeing 2001: A Space Odyssey.

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I used to be much more up to date with astronomy -- nowadays I have to look things up; it's still one of my favorite subjects though.

The short answer is that four planets have rings: Saturn, Jupiter, Neptune and Uranus. All of these rings seem to be made of bits of matter ranging in size from microscopic to boulder-size....basically dust. NASA's Cassini spacecraft, which is getting closer to Saturn every day, will do some analysis on these particles and may answer some of the puzzling questions about why/how rings form, and why some are brighter than others.

Some great websites (for adults and kids):

Saturn's Rings: http://www.nasa.gov/audience/forstudents/k...feature_k4.html

Space Journalism: www.space.com

Amazing Java applet that goes from WAY out there to the atomic level in a series of sooming images:

http://micro.magnet.fsu.edu/primer/java/sc...csu/powersof10/

Debunks bad astronomy, including in films: www.badastronomy.com

Man, that Hubble takes good pictures: http://hubble.stsci.edu/gallery/

NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day: http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/astropix.html

If your kids are at all interested in this stuff, find a public telescope or an astronomy club, and on a clear night head over for a look. There is almost NOTHING that tops a good view of another planet with your own eyes (i.e., not on paper or TV), especially Saturn when the rings [adding dropped words]are at a decent angle.

Edited by Tim Willson

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Thanks for the links, Tim -- I'll definitely be taking a look at them, most likely at an hour when my son is still awake.

I was motivated by this conversation to go out and rent 2010 tonight. It's still rather enjoyable, though occasionally some lines and acting seem a bit clunky. It's been even longer since I've read the books or seen 2001, but at least in this film, the origin of the monoliths is left rather vague (alien?, divine?), and the final segment (for me, anyway) alludes to Eden and the creation mandates. And yes, the space segments are very cool...

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Wow, this thread is a blast from the past - my 7 year old son of the original post is now a 6 ft 5 in high school junior, no longer interested in dinosaurs, but still very interested in astronomy and an aspiring engineer of some sort, able to hold his own in conversations with the physics profs who preside over the monthly 'star parties' at our local observatory.

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