How Many Rings Does Neptune Have?
Many people know that the planet Saturn has rings because this is mentioned many times in books, newspapers, magazines and on television programs. But not so many people know about the rings around other planets, such as Neptune. Neptune is considered one of the giant planets, along with Jupiter and Uranus. These three are sometimes referred to as giant planets and gas planets because of their size and their composition.
These planets all have rings, though the rings that circle Neptune are rather small in comparison to those that circle other planets. Scientists believe that these rings are made up of small rocks and debris. But in this case “small” means about the size of your family automobile! Rings around most of the planets also have a lot of smaller particles and dust in them.
Neptune has three obvious rings and another that is much more difficult to see. In fact, the Neptune rings are not as easily seen as those around Saturn. This explains why most people don’t realize that Neptune is surrounded by rings. It is also impossible to see without a good telescope.
One of the rings around Neptune is unique in the solar system in that it has three segments that are much brighter and denser than the remainder of that ring. Astronomers believe that the particles are not distributed evenly in the ring, giving parts of it this very different appearance.
Neptune is the eighth planet from the sun, located between Uranus and Pluto. (A few years ago the International Astronomers Union determined that Pluto was not really a planet.) Neptune is about 4.5 billion kilometers from the sun. It orbits in an almost perfect circle, unlike some orbiting bodies that have elliptical orbits.
The planet’s name comes from the god Neptune that is associated with the sea. Scientists found that the planet has a distinct blue/green color that is similar to what we see on the ocean. The discovery of the rings came a bit later. One of the interesting facts about Neptune is that a day on the planet is much shorter than a day on Earth. The planet rotates completely once in 16 hours.
At times Neptune can be seen with powerful binoculars but the best views come with a good telescope. The planet does have a central core of rock in a semi-liquid state but the majority of the planet’s bulk is cold water and gases such as hydrogen and helium. As the name “gas giant” indicates, the surface of Neptune is not solid like the Earth’s crust or the surface of some other planets. Extremely fast winds can sweep across the planet at times.
Neptune has at least eight moons. Astronomers believe there may be more moons to be discovered as technology allows. Scientists discovered Neptune’s “twin” planet – Uranus before Neptune, primarily because the orbit of Uranus seemed unusual. This odd movement led scientists to believe there was another large celestial body in the area.