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If Earth Had Rings


Ever feel a little jealous of Saturn? I know I do.

This 3DS Max animation by Ray Prol shows what the Earth would look like if it had rings like Saturn and what kind of views of the sky one might see from various places around the world. A somber “Ave Maria” comprises the only audio. Purely speculative, it’s 3 minutes of lighthearted yet intriguing astronomical imagination.

What I think are the more interesting points this brings up are not just what would the sky look like, but how might rings like Prol illustrates have affected life on Earth? Would the sunlight they block have a major effect on how and where plant and animal species developed? What about weather? Would large swaths of ring-shadow create temperature variations? And thus also effect winds and jet streams and such?

And, should humans have developed despite any of these variances, how would such a globally-present feature as a ring system affect civilization? What sorts of mythologies and religions would have developed to explain such a phenomenon? Would they bring distant cultures closer together because of a shared view of something so much obviously larger than themselves? Would they contribute to a more cohesive world-view? The roundness of them would be clear, so the flat-earth concept may never have arisen….one wonders if technology and space travel would have been achieved much sooner, if only to better investigate the rings.

I’m sure all these speculations have already been covered in science fiction novels I have never read. My apologies to Mr. Niven et al. I just couldn’t help but wonder as I watched the video.

Animation: Ray Prol

P.S.: It has been suggested, most notably by Dr. William K. Hartmann, that the Earth did in fact have a rough ring system at one time. It would have been over 4 billion years ago, and composed of the ejected material from the collision of the early Earth and a Mars-sized protoplanet that is hypothesized to have been the origin of our Moon. It’s become the currently accepted theory….more on that here.

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About Jason Major

Jason is a Rhode Island-based graphic designer, photographer, nature lover, space exploration fanatic, and coffee addict. In no particular order.

Posted on December 3, 2009, in Earth and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Magnificient – appropriate for the season and what a beautiful sight that would be worldwide. The one over Rio especially…

    Methinks it would have a calming and unifying effect. But then again, it is HUMANS we’re dealing with – so forget that…

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  2. So then… to scale, how big would the rings be around Earth. Saturn’s main rings
    are about 250,000 miles – so roughly from here to the Moon edge to edge. Scaled down, how big?

    And would somebody out there answer this: Why do all the Jovians have rings, but none of the terrestrials do? Yeah, Earth MAY have had one in the distant past and Mars may still get one in the distant future when one of it’s moons decides it has had enough of its stinkin’ decaying orbit but what about NOW?

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    • My guess – uneducated, of course – is that the big planets have the gravitational oomph needed to grab not only the moons required to supply the raw material for rings, but also any passing comets or meteorites that would in turn hit said moons and create ring-stuff. And they’re not only big enough but also far enough from the Sun to not compete gravitationally as much as the little rocky worlds do in our more suburban neighborhood.

      My thought is that out in the wilds of the solar system the big planets are left to tend their own property more. ?

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  3. Think of the observing impact. The sun’s light being reflected off of the rings every evening. Would we see stars? Would we be able to observe? Although the rings would be gorgeous, would we be able to see beyond them, and be so inspired by the vastness of space outside of our planet?

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    • I think stars would still be visible, especially along the equatorial line of the rings where reflection would be at a minimum. They would certainly have inspired some interesting mythologies.

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    • I think stars would still be visible, especially along the equatorial line of the rings where reflection would be at a minimum. They would certainly have inspired some interesting mythologies.

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