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Learning objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Name the major moons of each of the jovian planets
  • Describe the basic composition of each jovian planet’s ring system

The rings and moons (see the moons in [link] ) of the outer solar system are not composed of the same materials as the mostly rocky objects in the inner solar system. We should expect this, since they formed in regions of lower temperature, cool enough so that large quantities of water ice were available as building materials. Most of these objects also contain dark, organic compounds mixed with their ice and rock. Don’t be surprised, therefore, to find that many objects in the ring and moon systems are both icy and dark.

Roughly a third of the moons in the outer solar system are in direct or regular orbits; that is, they revolve about their parent planet in a west-to-east direction and in the plane of the planet’s equator. The majority are irregular moons that orbit in a retrograd e (east-to-west) direction or else have orbits of high eccentricity (more elliptical than circular) or high inclination (moving in and out of the planet’s equatorial plane). These irregular moons are mostly located relatively far from their planet; they were probably formed elsewhere and subsequently captured by the planet they now orbit. (Perhaps the fact that they were not born locally will excuse their ill-mannered behavior.)

Moons of the solar system.

An image showing the moons of the solar system in comparison to the size of the Earth. Earth is pictured at the bottom right. At the top of the image the planets are labeled from left to right. Under “Earth” is the “Moon”. Under “Jupiter” are the moons “Io”, “Europa”, “Ganymede”, and “Callisto”. Under “Saturn” are the moons “Mimas”, “Enceladus”, “Tethys”, “Dione”, “Rhea”, “Titan”, “Hyperion”, “Iapetus”, and “Phoebe”. Under “Uranus” are the moons “Puck”, “Miranda,” “Ariel”, “Unbriel”, “Titania”, and “Oberon”. Under “Neptune” are the moons “Proteus”, “Triton”, and “Nereid”. Under “Pluto” is the moon “Charon”. Under “Eris” is the moon “Dysnomia”.
This image shows some selected moons of our solar system and their comparison to the size of Earth’s Moon and Earth itself. (credit: modification of work by NASA)

The jupiter system

Jupiter has 67 known moons (that’s the number as we write) and a faint ring. These include four large moons— Callisto , Ganymede , Europa , and Io (see [link] )—discovered in 1610 by Galileo and therefore often called the Galilean moons . The smaller of these, Europa and Io, are about the size of our Moon, while the larger, Ganymede and Callisto, are about the same size as the planet Mercury. Most of Jupiter’s moons are much smaller. The majority are in retrograde orbits more than 20 million kilometers from Jupiter; these are very likely small captured asteroids.

The saturn system

Saturn has at least 62 known moons in addition to a magnificent set of rings. The largest of the moons, Titan , is almost as big as Ganymede in Jupiter’s system, and it is the only moon with a substantial atmosphere and lakes or seas of liquid hydrocarbons (such as methane and ethane) on the surface. Saturn has six other large regular moons with diameters between 400 and 1600 kilometers, a collection of small moons orbiting in or near the rings, and many captured strays similar to those of Jupiter. Mysteriously, one of Saturn’s smaller moons, Enceladus , has active geysers of water being expelled into space.

The rings of Saturn, one of the most impressive sights in the solar system, are broad and flat, with a few major and many minor gaps. They are not solid, but rather a huge collection of icy fragments, all orbiting the equator of Saturn in a traffic pattern that makes rush hour in a big city look simple by comparison. Individual ring particles are composed primarily of water ice and are typically the size of ping-pong balls, tennis balls, and basketballs.

The uranus system

The ring and moon system of Uranus is tilted at 98°, just like the planet itself. It consists of 11 rings and 27 currently known moons. The five largest moons are similar in size to the six regular moons of Saturn, with diameters of 500 to 1600 kilometers. Discovered in 1977, the rings of Uranus are narrow ribbons of dark material with broad gaps in between. Astronomers suppose that the ring particles are confined to these narrow paths by the gravitational effects of numerous small moons, many of which we have not yet glimpsed.

The neptune system

Neptune has 14 known moons. The most interesting of these is Triton , a relatively large moon in a retrograde orbit—which is unusual. Triton has a very thin atmosphere, and active eruptions were discovered there by Voyager in its 1989 flyby. To explain its unusual characteristics, astronomers have suggested that Triton may have originated beyond the Neptune system, as a dwarf planet like Pluto. The rings of Neptune are narrow and faint. Like those of Uranus, they are composed of dark materials and are thus not easy to see.

Key concepts and summary

The four jovian planets are accompanied by impressive systems of moons and rings. Nearly 200 moons have been discovered in the outer solar system. Of the four ring systems, Saturn’s is the largest and is composed primarily of water ice; in contrast, Uranus and Neptune have narrow rings of dark material, and Jupiter has a tenuous ring of dust.

Questions & Answers

Why does traveling at close to light speed or being near super dense objects cause time to dilate?
Andrew Reply
good question. time is only what we made it. the way light travels with and without gravity has always been a wonder to me.
Collins
What do you mean without gravity?
Andrew
I'm actually not sure, this might be a silly question but does gravity effect light in respect to time?
Collins
what is the definitions of planet
Mitrajit Reply
A celestial body orbiting around a star
Asim
How to appear for MCQ in this app
nitisha Reply
I l don't understand questions
Nkateko Reply
which quesrions?
Ankit
let it be
nitisha
How to make a telescope
Amit Reply
***youtube.com/channel/UClBN_RpR5X8IdrARwnaL3fg
Steve
***wikihow.com/Make-a-Telescope
Jennifer
optical mechanics
Astro
aptical
Nkateko
Which one has the ring
Isaac Reply
Saturn venue and even Jupiter all have rings the rings on Jupiter, however, aren't so easily noticed due to them only being viable through infrared
Hunter
visible *
Hunter
they each have three rings but not as you might think just think of them all as one big ring because that's basically what they are but they are desperate individual rings
Hunter
separate*
Hunter
can you tell me what is a quantam elighment? Lets see how many people give write answers
gdjm Reply
can you tell me what is a fomalhaut?
gdjm
Fomalhaut Is The Brightest Star In The Constalellation Of Piscis Austrinus.....
Adam
joe.
Tracy
Do You Mean Quantum Entanglement?
Adam
yes
gdjm
No Adam fomalhaut mean eye of universe
gdjm
quantum entanglement is when a husband has been married so long to his wife that he is directly influenced by her action usually in an opposite way. 🤣
Jocofranc
It Is Also The Brightest Star Of The The Constalellation Of Piscis Austrinus.....
Adam
who was the first person to get to the planet
Isaac
Is 5 dimensional exists
Asim
can anyone tell me daily rotation of the sun in tokyo
Liridona Reply
tokyo has it's own personal sun
Tracy
can you send me any pictures of the tokyo sun
Liridona
sure! ig?
Tracy
here can u?
Liridona
no it wont let me sadly
Tracy
or
Liridona
snapchat
Liridona
i dont have snapchat 😰
Tracy
okay ig
Liridona
my ig is fatwigga37 if you'd like to see :)
Tracy
Can we use SI units in the equation of Kepler's third law?
Naiyu Reply
can u tell the equation pls
sasmita
how does religion enters to this topic when god created this world
Sakira
How Do You Know A God Created Our Planet?
Adam
you must read bible
Sakira
u must the bible
Sakira
How Do You That Book Is Authentic? And I Have Read The Bible, The Koran, The Torah And The Urantia.....
Adam
The law is T^2 is proportional to R^3 where t is planet's time period and r is average of semi major axis and semi minor axis. Also,don't turn this place into a religious warzone. We already have idiots fighting about religion.
priyanshu
If I Had A Book That Said Insects Created The Universe, Would That Make It Fact?
Adam
Have You Ever Heard Of The Council Of Nicaea?
Adam
Through Out History Mankind Has Worshipped Over 5000 Different Gods, How Do You Know Christ Is The True God?
Adam
God Is A Hypothesis..... The Definition Of Faith Is Belief Without Proof.....
Adam
Thank You Prianshu Roy, This Is A Forum For Science Not Archaic Stories Written By Sheep Herders, Well Said.....
Adam
Hebrew 13:1
onome
P2 = a3
Adam
So You Quote A Bible Verse, Now What?
Adam
Science Discourse Nothing Else.....
Adam
god is real he's not just a wise guess
Sakira
god bless you
Sakira
u know what,u are not here if god werent there!
Sakira
Science Discourse, Nothing Else.....
Adam
Thier Are Many Religious Sites You Can Go To, To Discuss God.....
Adam
hahahaha
Sakira
Have A Great Day.....
Adam
night time here
Sakira
Look Up The Definition Of Day, Instead Of Trying To Look Witty, Again Have A Great Day.....
Adam
😈😈😈
Sakira
such an socratic person?
Sakira
What Was Your Intention In Stating "Night Time Here" ?
Adam
please don't fight over silly stuffs!
Romancho
tangina mo
Sakira
No I Don't Believe A God Exist, But I Will Fight For Your Right To Worship Any God You Wish.....
Adam
no fighting
Sakira
But This Venue Is For Science Discourse.....
Adam
i know!
Sakira
No Fighting, Just Discussion.....
Adam
yes Naiyu, we have to use SI unit in the equation for the Kepler's every laws
Madhav
Thanks.
Naiyu
wow
Kenneth
Tell me about nebula
Asim
How it is created
Asim
Its a dust cloud of hydrogen
Asim
a nebula is usually formed when a star ends its life cycle
Chris
Ok
Asim
And its working?
Asim
When the time comes, most stars run out of available hydrogen they have for nuclear fusion
Chris
When that happens there is no more equilibrium between pressure and gravity
Chris
So there is no more pressure to balance the gravitational force, therefore a star collapses into its own core, and then the amount of matter inside the core is so large that the star explodes into a nebula
Chris
its a beautiful view, but very dangerous, the amount of radation is really big
Chris
Look it up on google, there are explanations better than mine
Chris
Ok thanks
Asim
what is your zodiac ?
Jenny
Gravity is the force that is formed due to the big mass of an object. The bigger is the mass, the bigger is the gravity. That is why the Earth attracts humans or small things. If We were bigger than the planet Earth we would have attracted it.
Lemisa
Tell me about white dwarf and red dwarf in simple words
Asim
what's the scene of voyager 1,did we get any information through it
Aarushi Reply
we are getting a lot of info yet more to be received check official mission report from the officials site ....
Ganeshan
what are the best astronomy books?
neehar Reply
what is the parallel space?
neehar
A brief history of time
Asim
planet and stars by Jay M. Pasachoff skyguide by wimmer chartrand
Minireet
how to measure the brightness of a star in w\m^2
Aarushi Reply
it's based on the percentage of helium I think
neehar
ok TQ😊
Aarushi
it's based planet colour and brightness which called lumiosity
gdjm
Are there planets that has the same characteristics as earth.
Nito Reply
yes ofcourse there are earth like planets but they aren't completely like earth.still scientists have a hope of life existence in there.
Aarushi
yeah of course example is Mars but they only discover water at mars
neehar
there's a much possibility of presence of earth like planets in the universe if they were present at goldilock zones
Jashwanth
what are goldilock zones?
Aarushi
why yes there are planets just like earth out there somewhere we know that much for sure given the number of planets in the galaxy, as a matter of fact, one of Jupiter moons officially named "gamamede" is very much like earth in size and characteristics
Hunter
How to become an astronomy
Aakarsh Reply
astronomer*
Emilya
Yes
Aakarsh
Astronomer
Aakarsh
yes i Also want to know the answer
Mehar
How to become?
Aakarsh
Me too
Romancho
By hard study
Zulker
Try to keep all the basics of science subjects and also English
Zulker
Ya i know that I will do hard work but
Aakarsh
I have always found astronomy fascinating, but my first love is philosophy.
GARY
I wanna become astromer as neel armstrang
Aakarsh
that's an astronaut
Emilya
Neil Armstrong
antman
what is your name who are you where are you why are you there
GARY
Neil Armstrong was an astronaut. You first work is to know the meaning of astrophysicist, astronomer, astronaut, astrologer and to find the work of the individual. And the most important thing is to be good in English. Because u have done some mistakes while doing chat with me like :an astronomer
Zulker
sorry I'm talking to somebody else someplace else on the internet
GARY
The heading will be "How to become an astronomer"
Zulker
jus be yourself and follow your passion and I think there is no need to copy anyone
Aarushi
hey it's simple yaar, it's based on your curiosity
neehar
what is the length of Earth
comedy Reply
The Earth is not a perfect sphere, however it's roughly 25,000 miles, or 131.5 million feet, or 1.6 Billion inches. In the Metric system its HUGE!
Jocofranc
Thank for your knowledge.Sr
nyo
But can I also know and calculate the whole weight of earth includeing flora, funa,water on earth even air's weight.Depending on super compruter, I think it can be.For the very detail in the Metric System.Such as kilogram and pound.
nyo
Earth is about 6 Sextillion metric tons check out formula at ***science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/earth/geophysics/planet-earth-weigh.htm
Jocofranc
thank again Sr.I wanna ask another question if you don't mind.The earth had 4.5billion years age old.My question is from fire ball to today more and more stable geology was how happen.Please answer me starting of life on this planet and how many era are there and the earth history.
nyo
My friend you have asked a question(s) that scientists struggle with. There is no short cut...the information is lenghty. Here is an additional site for you. It is a good place to start. ***newscientist.com/article/dn17453-timeline-the-evolution-of-life/
Jocofranc
Sr,your web site is very useful to me.And another question is how gene or DNA transfer from parent to sibling.how we know the first DNA of our first human from arfarica.
nyo
Good morning Nyo; ur question is out of my league, although fascinating. Maybe you'll find this page helpful: ***genetics.thetech.org/ask/ask445
Jocofranc
If speed is so many thousand time of light and start to travel from one point,how speed will return to it starting point even in straight line back.Will time and energy be limit it?Can it be posible.Please let me explain Sr.
nyo
hey neo ur curiosity is great, where r u from?
neehar
in physics actully no but thory make possible
gdjm
earth is about 13,000 kilometers across
Hunter
Yes 5 dimensions exist.
Andrew
isn't there 10 dimensions? 🤔
Collins
Yes there's 10 but I was answering his question on wether 5 dimensions exist.
Andrew
Why are there 10 dimensions and what's the difference between each one?
Candelaria
there are 26 dimensions exist according to the string theory.
YOG
and we can absorb 4 dimensions in general and special relativity
YOG
Why does traveling at close to light speed and being near super massive or dense objects affect space and time?
Andrew
oh yes I know that sorry, and thank u very much i was just making sure that was the case. its amazing.
Collins
26 according to string theory? wow I just thought 10
Collins
Yes 26 according to string theory.
Andrew
What's the difference between all 26?
Candelaria
And what's string theory?
Candelaria
Can I get any reference for introduction on string theory concept
Ayush
***youtu.be/Da-2h2B4faU
Collins
not sure that video might not be exactly what ur looking for il try find the others
Collins

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Source:  OpenStax, Astronomy. OpenStax CNX. Apr 12, 2017 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11992/1.13
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