in my story world i have a ring surrounding the planet a la saturn, and it’s red. what would it look like from the planet’s surface? how bright would it be at night? would it cast a reddish glow down on the planet? thanks

scriptastronomer:

I love planets with rings. I think that any planet would look good with a ring around it.

So, let’s take a planet like Earth (hey – here’s one we call Earth) and put a rings around it right above the equator. What would they look like?

It’d be so very beautiful.

Kevin Gill has rendered several images of what the sky would look like if Earth had rings. He took Saturn’s rings and scaled them down for Earth. Here’s what he did:

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Illustrator Ron Miller did the same thing.

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Yeah, I know. Absolutely gorgeous.

If the rings around your world are made of a reddish substance, they would reflect that red light back onto the planet, causing things to have a reddish tinge. Probably not enough to make a big difference (rings like these would be about as bright as several full Moons) but it would be noticeable, especially at night. Imagine that the planet is constantly bathed in the reddish light of a sunset all the time – day and night.

There would also probably be many more species active at night than on our ringless Earth.

Mind you, our rings won’t look exactly like Saturn’s – with all the gaps and things – but would look more solid. The gaps in Saturn’s rings are the result of the gravitational influence of moons that orbit outside the rings pulling debris into certain orbits. Also, Saturn’s rings have several shepherd moons that actually orbit inside the rings that keep the rings herded into certain areas..

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Rings would also play merry hell with any space program your planet has. Anything in orbit lower than about 18,000km (Earth’s Roche limit) will be in trouble because it will be flying through the rings twice every orbit. It’d be like having a small natural Kessler event. Not quite as bad, because all the debris would be confined to one plane, but a space pilot would have to be careful anyway, and it means no spaceports at the equator, and no satellites in orbit at less than 18,000km. That means your cell-phone satellites (which generally orbit from 600km to 1200km) would need to be more powerful and more expensive.

People might be reluctant to visit your beautiful, ringed planet, as they don’t want their pretty, shiny spaceship to get battered by space debris. It happened with our shuttle, and NASA didn’t have to worry about any rings.

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Insurance rates for spacecraft are literally astronomical.