(See the Rings Gallery)
One of the most striking features of Saturn is its rings. Most people know that there are rings around Saturn, but they don't know much about them. Take a look at the table below for more info or you can just admire them by looking at our Saturn Rings Gallery.
The rings of Saturn have puzzled astronomers ever since they were discovered by Galileo in 1610 using the first telescope. The puzzles have only increased since Voyagers 1 and 2 imaged the ring system extensively in 1980 and 1981. In addition to the images, several Voyager instruments observed occultations of the ring system with radial resolution as fine as 100 meters.
The rings have been given letter names in the order of their discovery. The main rings are, working outward from the planet, known as C, B, and A. The Cassini Division is the largest gap in the rings and separates Rings B and A. In addition a number of fainter rings have been discovered more recently. The D Ring is exceedingly faint and closest to the planet. The F Ring is a narrow feature just outside the A Ring. Beyond that are two far fainter rings named G and E. The particles in Saturn's rings are composed primarily of water ice and range from microns to meters in size. The rings show a tremendous amount of structure on all scales; some of this structure is related to gravitational perturbations by Saturn's many moons, but much of it remains unexplained.
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 less than one kilometer 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 ring particles seem to be composed primarily of water ice, but they may also include rocky particles with icy coatings.