Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Rings of Earth

These days, we can occasionally see satellites - including the ISS - as they pass overhead, providing they're still in sunlight and the sun has set where we are. And seeing conditions are right.

It's occurred to me that it won't be too long before sightings like that become more frequent. Not from the "space junk" that's been in the news lately, but by more and larger structures in orbit. Given time, I don't see why there wouldn't be so many that they form visually-continuous sheets around Earth - sort of like the rings of Saturn, except made of habitats and automated satellites.

With structures like that, the Roche limits wouldn't apply - unless they were extremely large - but I think that habitats, at least, would be placed below, or between, the radiation belts. (See "The Van Allen Belt," Ask an Astrophysicist, Imagine, NASA; "The Radiation Belts," "The Exploration of the Earth's Magnetosphere," NASA; "Radiation Belts" and "The Earth's Magnetosphere," Windows to the Universe, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research)

And, since the function of some satellites require that that they be in non-equatorial orbits, there would probably be gaps maintained in the equitorial 'rings' of satellites, to allow other satellites to pass through.

Eventually, my guess is that someone will get the idea of physically linking most or all satellites at some altitudes, to make moving between them easier - and possibly making it easier to keep them from drifting out of position. I'm not sure what orbital mechanics would say about that.

So, given time, Earth may have rings: artificial ones.

Now that would be a tourist attraction.

"THE RINGS OF THE EARTH , 3DS Max Animation"

Roy Prol, via T0R0YD, YouTube (October 8, 2009)
video, 3:33

"How would the Earth look like if it had a ring system like Saturn? --- 3ds Max animation."


"What If Earth Had Rings?"
Universe Today (November 20, 2009)

"While we're on the subject of Saturn…. I came across this video, and it poses — and answers — the interesting question, what would Earth look like if it had rings like Saturn? This animation was done by Roy Prol, and it shows not only how the rings would look from space, but also the view Earthlings would have of the rings...."
A tip of the hat to IDreamHappily, on Twitter, for the heads-up on this video (IDreamHappily linked to another appearance of it, on

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