Imagine the Universe!
Imagine Home  |   Ask an Astrophysicist  |  
Ask an Astrophysicist

The Question

(Submitted November 11, 1997)

What is the average thickness of the rings of Saturn?

The Answer

According to
>The thickness of the rings ranges from 10 to 100 meters and the rings vary >in brightness.

According to

>   Though they look continuous from the Earth, the rings are actually
>composed of innumerable small particles each in an independent orbit.
>They range in size from a centimeter or so to several meters. A few
>kilometer-sized objects are also likely.
>   Saturn's rings are extraordinarily thin: though they're 250,000 km or
>more in diameter they're no more than 1.5 kilometers thick. Despite
>their impressive appearance, there's really very little material in the
>rings -- if the rings were compressed into a single body it would be no
>more than 100 km across.

The 300 km number is probably from before space probes such as Voyager visited the planet.

David Palmer
for Ask an Astrophysicist

Questions on this topic are no longer responded to by the "Ask an Astrophysicist" service. See for help on other astronomy Q&A services.

Previous question
Main topic
Next question

Imagine the Universe is a service of the High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center (HEASARC), Dr. Alan Smale (Director), within the Astrophysics Science Division (ASD) at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

The Imagine Team
Acting Project Leader: Dr. Barbara Mattson
All material on this site has been created and updated between 1997-2012.

DVD Table of Contents
Educator's Index