Does Pluto Have Rings?

by Fraser Cain on May 15, 2008

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Saturn has rings and Jupiter has rings. Does Pluto have rings? Astronomers have no idea. Pluto is so far away that it’s impossible to get a clear view of Pluto from here on Earth.

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But scientists think that it’s possible that Pluto does have rings. This idea comes from the fact that Pluto has two tiny moons, Nix and Hydra. They’re just a few km across, and have very little gravity. So any micrometeoroid impacts on these moons will kick up material into orbit around Pluto.

Instead of falling back down onto the moons, this impact material would drift into rings around Pluto. Astronomers think it could actually survive for up to 100,000 years. This is a similar process that creates some of the rings around Saturn and Jupiter.

If this is true, it would constitute the first set of rings around a solid object (in this case a dwarf planet), rather than a gas giant planet.

When NASA’s New Horizons mission arrives at Pluto in 2015, it might be able to detect these faint rings, and confirm the theory.

About 

Fraser Cain is the publisher of Universe Today. He's also the co-host of Astronomy Cast with Dr. Pamela Gay.

Jared May 20, 2008 at 2:44 PM

I think Pluto status should of been kept as the official 9th planet until more conclusive evidence determines other wise. Its often mentioned “so little” is known about Pluto and as we can see from the limited and blurry photos I dont think a clear-cut determination can made.

I kind of compare this to an NFL instant replay call. The orignal call stands when there is no actual clear proof to overturn it. Since Pluto was labled an official planet for over 75 years it should therefore stand. Perhaps the New Horizons spacecraft will shed some new light or more information. They should of waited until then to untimately make a call that changes history.

I hear the opposing sides arguments as well as some of the data as being valid but as I said, I think they jumped the gun by demoting it before having all the facts.

You could make some kind of case against Mercury too. Its smaller then several moons, has no atmosphere to speak of. Since Pluto does orbit the sun and nothing else, appears to have 3 moons in orbit of itself, has what appears to be a minimal atmospere (more of one then Mercury), is spherical in shape, is not captured by the much larger Neptune despite the 2 bodies being somewhat close, at least on a cosmic scale it should stay a planet.

Just an astronomers opinion; therefore the original ruling on the field should stand as called.

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