Does Pluto Have Rings?

by Fraser Cain on May 15, 2008


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.

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