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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

what is the model about the earth being the center of the universe called?
Lordgy Reply
geocentric model
SCIENCE
I hope you got your answer.
SCIENCE
what is black hole and stellar black hole
azeb Reply
does Millikan consider electron axial spin in his discovery of electrons mass using q/m ratio ? If No how it is possible that he found rest mass of electron (9×10^31 Kg) ?
Anurag Reply
how did light from up
Sourav Reply
Before there stars , there was matter and radiation . Before there were neutral atoms ,there was an ionized plasma ,and when that plasma froms neutral atoms , those allow the Universe to deliver the earliest light we see today .......
Apsara
how to know the distance of a star
Sourav Reply
What is time
Sourav
Technical Infinite Measurement of Evolution
Doc
not by the book but the simplicity of word play ....
Doc
to calculate the distance of a star we use parallax method (as far as my school has taught me).
Tanmay
in this method we see the star from one point and then after traveling some distance perpendicular to the distance of star we see it again. With this we can make a triangle and then it's median will give our distance
Tanmay
And time is just a way of defining when an event happened
Tanmay
oh and we will know the distance of all the 3 sides of triangle formed above if we multiply the time taken by light with speed of light and the third side will be known to us as it is dependent on our will
Tanmay
what are wormholes?
facty Reply
Holes made by worms
Neil
What is the difference between black hole and white hole ?
Apsara
black hole is the place where the massive body makes a large disturbance in space time fabric causing large gravity even light can't escape from it and all the bodies enter into on reaching a specific distance.
SCIENCE
A white hole is a hypothetical region of spacetime and singularity which cannot be entered from the outside, although energy-matter and light can escape from it. In this sense, it is the reverse of a black hole, which can be entered only from the outside and from which energy-matter and light can
SCIENCE
White holes appear in the theory of eternal black holes
SCIENCE
worm holes join 2 distant region of spacetime through which you can travel, covering large distance in short time
Tanmay
for example if you need to travel from A to B on a plane of paper then you can travel in a straight line joining those points but a worm hole will join those points using 3rd dimention which will make you travel that distance in short time
Tanmay
Hi,Do you known Kyaw Nyein Chan Hein!
zin Reply
No
Astrophysicist
Hello : I'm Kyaw Nyein Chan
zin
Hi I'm Kyaw Nyein Chan
zin Reply
Hello : good moring, I'm Kyaw Nyein Chan
zin Reply
hello good morning
Astrophysicist
good morning bro
Tanmay
how do you do?
Astrophysicist
I am fine what about you?
Tanmay
same as you
Astrophysicist
cool
Tanmay
How the Big Bang is made .
Apsara Reply
Kyaw Nyein Chan
zin
What is heliocentric
Apsara Reply
helio is from the greek god helios or ilios and means sun. Centric is from central. So heliocentric means with the sun in the middle
Robin
Usually in the context of astronomy its about the moment the world goes from the idea of 'earth in the middle of the solar system' to the idea that the sun is in the center of the solar system
Robin
so from a geocentric (geo meaning earth) to a heliocentric idea
Robin
yes correct this theory states that sun is in the middle of the solar system rather than earth
Tanmay
oh you have already said this
Tanmay
Hello: good afternoon
zin
hello
Tanmay
Thankyou to all to solve my doubt . I don't know more about the solar system beacause i am a small little girl my old is 9 and i love science but i am trying to learn more about science .
Apsara
that's great you should definitely check science in a nutshell YouTube channel it will provide you with good information
Tanmay
that's great you should definitely check science in a nutshell YouTube channel it will provide you with good information
Tanmay
that's great you should definitely check science in a nutshell YouTube channel it will provide you with good information
Tanmay
here is the link ***youtube.com/c/inanutshell
Tanmay
You not alone Apsara I'm 14 but know little about the universe
Swazi
what is solar system
Himanshi
what do you mean by astronomy
Himanshi
astronomy is a study of planetary science.
Enceladus
Astronomy is a branch of Physics that deals with the study of celestial bodies.
Satyam
An astronomy is a scientist in the field of astronomy who focuses their studies on a specific questions or field outside the scope of Earth 🌍🌎🌏 . They observe astronomical objects such as star's , planets , moon , comets and galaxies - in either observational (by analyzing the data)
Apsara
what is the difference between astronomy and cosmology
Astrophysicist
The collection of eight planets and their moon's in orbit around the Sun , together with smaller bodies in the form of asteroids , meteoroids and comets . The planet of the solar system are ( in order of distance from the sun ) Mercury , Venues , Earth ,Mass , Jupiter , Sartune ,Uranus , Neptune .
Apsara
In Astronomy, we study about celestial objects but in cosmology we study the origin and the formation of universe.
Satyam
how much temperature were can find on neptune
Ayyan Reply
the temperature is between -200 to -218 degree Celsius
Tanmay
how can I apply online astronomy course ? if you have link send it.
Dawit Reply
what is astronomy
Khanyisa
Does any body know about Quantum Battery ?
Yabtsega Reply
yea I tell you briefly callme
Eyiba
How to get into the field of astronomy after completing B.tech in department of ECE?
Lakshmi Reply
Well my option is to do your job while getting a distant education from a reptued university for B.Sc and try for M.Sc in IIA and remaining astrophysics universities in india
Mahesh
Do I require GATE score for that?
Lakshmi
Yeah I meañ get a better score in gate.I think the university considers it and would help you to direct enroll into a masters progarmme
Mahesh
But the score should be good.
Mahesh
okay. I will do my best.
Lakshmi
Thank you
Lakshmi
hi guys I am from Ethiopia.I don't know detailedly about astronomy and I want to be astronaut .can you help me guys?
Dawit
I know that astronauts have to be physically fit
Tanmay
I don't know anything else though
Tanmay
If you want to be a astronaut you should complete medicine.
Mahesh
I had done by my b.tech ece long back and then I started doing job...but I still want to switch my field to astronomy, I m confused how shall I pursue it..
Shina
what should we pursue after 12th std B.Sc program and further or through engineering?
Ganesh
Maybe you should ask this question in quora.Professors will tell you answer to the question.
Mahesh
ok
Ganesh

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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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