Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

September 16, 1998
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download 
 the highest resolution version available.

Jupiters Rings Revealed
Credit: M. Belton (NOAO), J. Burns (Cornell) et al., Galileo Project, JPL, NASA

Explanation: Why does Jupiter have rings? Jupiter's rings were discovered in 1979 by the passing Voyager 1 spacecraft, but their origin has always been a mystery. Recent data from the Galileo spacecraft currently orbiting Jupiter now confirms that these rings were created by meteoroid impacts on small nearby moons. As a small meteoroid strikes tiny Adrastea, for example, it will bore into the moon, vaporize, and explode dirt and dust off into a Jovian orbit. Pictured above is an eclipse of the Sun by Jupiter, as viewed from Galileo. Small dust particles high in Jupiter's atmosphere, as well as the dust particles that compose the rings, can be seen by reflected sunlight.

Tomorrow's picture: Radio, The Big Ear, And The Wow Signal

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC
&: Michigan Tech. U.