Researchers solve space riddle of planetary rings

An international team of scientists, including Professor Nikolai Brilliantov from the Department of Mathematics, has solved an age-old scientific riddle by discovering that planetary rings, such as those orbiting Saturn, have a universally similar particle distribution.

The study, which is published in the academic journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), also suggests that Saturn’s rings are essentially in a steady state that does not depend on their history.

Most of the planets in the Solar System have smaller bodies, or satellites, that orbit a planet. Some of them, such as Saturn, Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune, additionally possess planetary rings - a collection of still smaller bodies of different sizes that also orbit a planet. It is likely that planetary rings also exist beyond the Solar System.

Professor Brilliantov said: "Our study has finally resolved the riddle of particle size distribution. In particular, our study shows that the observed distribution is not peculiar for Saturn's rings, but has a universal character. In other words, it is generic for all planetary rings which have particles to have a similar nature.”