Does Earth have any rings?

The answer is no. And yes, sort of.


No.

The answer is no because the Earth has no natural ring system, like that of Saturn. If it did, we'd be able to see them blazing across the sky, day and night. It would truly be an awe-inspiring, majestic sight, as envisaged by Roy Prol in this animation:


Ring systems are not solid things: they're made up of bits of ice and dust ranging from millimetres to kilometres in size. They're not completely stable either; some of the bits would end up falling into our atmosphere, and we'd see many of them as they burnt up as meteors in the sky.

The Earth may have had rings in the past. Large collisions, such as that which is thought to have driven the dinosaurs to extinction, may kick enough dust far enough to form a temporary ring system which could last potentially for a few million years.


Yes.

The 'yes, sort of' part of the answer starts off with Project West Ford, back in the 1960s. The project saw the launch of 480 million 1.78cm copper needles into Earth orbit. The needles formed a ring around the Earth which was used to bounce communication signals off in order to transmit messages further than could be managed reliably with traditional radios.

Beyond this, some mention must be made of the estimated 500,000 (and counting) pieces of man-made junk orbiting the Earth. This junk comes from various sources and includes derelict spacecraft, used rocket booster stages, debris from explosions and collisions, and even lost tools- there is at least one screwdriver currently in orbit around the Earth after having been dropped by an astronaut on a spacewalk.

All this rubbish is forming its own system of rings, so, in a way, yes, Earth does currently have a ring system of sorts.

Comments

  1. Soooo wish Earth did have a ring system now I've seen that clip. Wouldn't that be amazing?!

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  2. But if we did, it'd just be a normal, everyday thing to us. Can you imagine if someone came from a planet without a big moon and looked up into our night sky and saw our Moon hanging there in the sky?

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