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This schematic cut-away view of the components of Jupiter's ring system shows the geometry of the rings in relation to Jupiter and to the small inner satellites, which are the source of the dust which forms the rings.
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Image courtesy of NASA/JPL.

Galileo Discovers Origin of Jupiter's Rings
News story originally written on September 21, 1998

Scientists recently discovered the origin of Jupiter's rings. With the help of the Galileo spacecraft, scientists figured out that the rings are made from dust that was kicked off of the small moons surrounding Jupiter when these moons were struck by comets or asteroids.

The ring system begins about 55,000 miles (92,000 kilometers) from Jupiter's center and extends to about 150,000 miles (250,000 kilometers) from the planet. Jupiter's rings are made up of a main ring and an inner, cloud-like ring, called the halo. Galileo also revealed that there is an outer ring system called the gossamer rings. They are almost-tranparent rings. (see picture to the left!)

When speaking about this new discovery, astronomer Joseph Burns said, "These images provide one of the most significant discoveries of the entire Galileo imaging experiment."

Galileo has been orbiting Jupiter and its moons for 2 1/2 years, and is now in the middle of a two-year extension, known as the Galileo Europa Mission.

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