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The Rings of Jupiter: Halo, Main and Gossamer Ring - Windows to the Universe

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With Explore the Planets, investigate the planets, their moons, and understand the processes that shape them. By G. Jeffrey Taylor, Ph.D. See our DVD collection.
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 rings, which are clearly visible from Earth even through small telescopes, Jupiter's rings are very 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.

There are three parts to Jupiter's rings. 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 diagram, 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.

Last modified September 20, 2003 by Randy Russell.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF