This diagram shows the rings of Jupiter and Jupiter's innermost moons.
Click on image for full size
Image courtesy of NASA/JPL.
The Rings of Jupiter
Jupiter has a series of rings circling it! Unlike Saturn's
which are clearly visible from Earth even through small telescopes, Jupiter's
difficult to see. So difficult, in fact, that they weren't discovered until
a few years ago. Jupiter's rings were first found by the Voyager
1 spacecraft in 1979.
Three main sections comprise Jupiter's ring system. The innermost, cloud-like
ring is called the Halo Ring. The next one out is the Main Ring, which is quite
narrow and thin. Beyond the Main Ring is the wispy, nearly transparent Gossamer
Ring. As shown in the
the Gossamer Ring has two parts: the Amalthea Gossamer Ring (closer to Jupiter)
and the Thebe Gossamer Ring.
Saturn's rings are mostly made of ice. Jupiter's rings are different - they
are very dark and difficult to see. They are made up of small bits of dust.
The Galileo spacecraft helped us discover where that dust comes from. Meteors
striking the surface of Jupiter's small, inner moons kick up dust which then
goes into orbit around Jupiter, forming the rings.
Facts about the rings:
- The Main Ring extends from about 122,500 km to 128,940 km from the center
of Jupiter (Jupiter's radius is 71,398 km, so the Main Ring starts about
50,000 km above Jupiter's cloudtops). It is thus about 6,440 km (around 4,000
miles) wide. It is less than 30 km thick from top to bottom!
- The Halo Ring is closer to Jupiter. It extends from 92,000 km
to about 122,500 km from Jupiter's center.
- The Gossamer Ring has two sections. The Amalthea Gossamer Ring extends
inward from the orbit of the moon Amalthea at a distance of 181,000 km from
Jupiter. It is enclosed within the Thebe Gossamer Ring, which extends inward
from the orbit of the moon Thebe at a distance of 222,000 km from Jupiter.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Our online store
includes issues of NESTA's quarterly journal, The Earth Scientist
, full of classroom activities on different topics in Earth and space science, as well as books
on science education!
You might also be interested in:
Many people are fascinated by Saturn's rings. Although Saturn isn't the only planet with rings, it is the only planet famous for them. Almost every image or drawing of the planet has the rings included....more
The rare geometric arrangement of planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune in the 1980's made it possible for the Voyager spacecrafts to visit them over a 12 year span instead of the normal 30. They...more
Amalthea was discovered by E Barnard in 1872. Of the 17 moons it is the 3rd closest to Jupiter, with a standoff distance of 181,300 km. Amalthea is about the size of a county or small state, and is just...more
The Galileo spacecraft was launched on October 19, 1989. Galileo had two parts: an orbiter and a descent probe that parachuted into Jupiter's atmosphere. Galileo's primary mission was to explore the Jovian...more
Adrastea is a small moon of Jupiter. Of Jupiter's 60 moons, it is the second closest to the planet. Adrastea was discovered by David Jewitt and Ed Danielson of the Voyager team in 1979. Adrastea is tiny...more
The Galileo spacecraft, which has been orbiting Jupiter since 1995, has finally reached the end of its road. On September 21, 2003, Galileo will make a fiery plunge into Jupiter's atmosphere and be vaporized....more
On the night of July 19, 2009, Anthony Wesley noticed a dark splotch on Jupiter that hadn't been there before. Wesley, an amateur astronomer in Australia, had discovered the remnants of a huge impact on...more