Wouldn’t it be cool to walk on top of Saturn’s rings? see the whole planet and the rest of the Solar system in all its glory? We all agree it would be a great idea, but is it even possible?
The short answer is no. It is not possible to walk on Saturn’s rings even if you were to use a spacesuit that could allow you to breathe in outer space and protect you from the cold and radiation.
But why? Well, let’s take a look at the long answer.
What are Saturn’s rings made of?
Saturn’s rings are made up of billions and billions of tiny pieces of rock and ice. Astronomers believe these chunks of dust were once larger comets or meteoroids that were crushed and broken by the large gravity of Saturn before they could hit the planet.
The large majority of rocks and ice pieces in the rings are the size of dust specks to grains of rice. Only a few are larger than that with the bigger ones being the size of a small mountain.
That last bit could give you some hope in regard to the main question of the post, unfortunately, it doesn’t help much.
Can you walk on Santurn’s rings?
It is not possible to walk on Saturn’s rings. Most of the pieces that make them up and tiny and could not support you.
Even standing in the large pieces that are the size of a house or even a mountain would be a challenge. The opposite force that you would require to “land” on them would probably be too much and it would take them out of orbit. And even if you could land on them, you couldn’t walk as their gravity is too small. Even the tiniest step would be too much of an impulse and it would send you floating into outer space or you might also fall into Saturn.
Then there’s the problem of being hit by one of these chunks of ice or rock. Some of them, especially in the outer rings travel very fast reaching speeds of 10 miles per second (16 km/s). Even if one of the small pieces were to hit your space suit, at that speed, it would cause enough damage to break the seal.
Why haven’t Saturn’s rings formed a Moon?
If you have learned about how planets and some moons are formed, you might know that these large objects generally start exactly like Saturn’s rings. A bunch of tiny specks of dust and clouds of gas that through gravity start to collide with each other forming larger pieces. The process repeats itself until you eventually end up with a very big piece of rock like a planet or a moon.
So, why hasn’t that happened in Saturn?
The answer is that the rings are at a very specific distance where the gravity of Saturn is too big to let allow for large pieces to form, but it is too small to completely capture the objects and have them fall into the atmosphere.
Saturn does have moons. In fact, it has 83 moons and more will probably be discovered in the future.
Is Saturn the only planet with rings?
No. Rings are a very common phenomenon. Especially on large planets. All the gas giants in the Solar system (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune) have rings, they are not just as big as Saturn’s and can’t be seen with telescopes from Earth. Probes like the Voyager and space telescopes like the James Webb telescope have managed to take photos of Neptune’s and Saturn’s rings.
Even dwarf planets can have rings even though they are smaller than Earth. In 2023, a set of rings was discovered around Quaoar, a candidate dwarf planet located in the Kuiper belt.
- Saturn’s rings are made of tiny pieces of rock and ice.
- It is not possible to stand or walk on Saturn’s rings as these pieces are not continuous.
- Even if you could land on one of the larger rocks, walking would not be possible due to their low gravity.