7th Feb 2013
I sure can!
Saturn’s rings aren’t solid objects—rather, they’re disks made up of particles of water ice and ice-covered rock. Some are too small to see, and others are as big as buses. The rings are 400,000 km wide (the distance from the Earth to the Moon!), but can be as little as 100 m thick. 
There’s no consensus on a theory of their formation, but there are several ideas—for example, that that planet is big enough to snatch debris from space, which is also why it has at least 62 moons; that the material in the rings is debris from asteroid impacts with Saturn’s moons; that that several of its moons broke up and formed into the rings… Or perhaps, all of these contributed.
Either way, Saturn’s rings don’t just stay in place around the planet, because they are basically millions of asteroids of varying sizes orbiting the planet in a one-layered cluster. They aren’t pulled into Saturn’s atmosphere for the same reason satellites aren’t pulled into Earth’s atmosphere—they maintain just enough distance and velocity to orbit. Too much, and they would break away from the planet’s gravitation pull; too little, and they would be pulled down towards the planet. The further away the particles are, less velocity is needed to stay in orbit—so the innermost rings move much faster than those on the outside. 
If you want to understand how orbital mechanics work, here’s a fairly straightforward explanation of how satellites orbit the earth, and here’s another.

I sure can!

Saturn’s rings aren’t solid objects—rather, they’re disks made up of particles of water ice and ice-covered rock. Some are too small to see, and others are as big as buses. The rings are 400,000 km wide (the distance from the Earth to the Moon!), but can be as little as 100 m thick.

There’s no consensus on a theory of their formation, but there are several ideas—for example, that that planet is big enough to snatch debris from space, which is also why it has at least 62 moons; that the material in the rings is debris from asteroid impacts with Saturn’s moons; that that several of its moons broke up and formed into the rings… Or perhaps, all of these contributed.

Either way, Saturn’s rings don’t just stay in place around the planet, because they are basically millions of asteroids of varying sizes orbiting the planet in a one-layered cluster. They aren’t pulled into Saturn’s atmosphere for the same reason satellites aren’t pulled into Earth’s atmosphere—they maintain just enough distance and velocity to orbit. Too much, and they would break away from the planet’s gravitation pull; too little, and they would be pulled down towards the planet. The further away the particles are, less velocity is needed to stay in orbit—so the innermost rings move much faster than those on the outside.

If you want to understand how orbital mechanics work, here’s a fairly straightforward explanation of how satellites orbit the earth, and here’s another.

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  3. esss reblogged this from sciencesoup and added:
    That is why Saturn still has rings orbiting it
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  12. vdamaarten said: I can be wrong, but doesn’t more distance mean more speed? First off, there is less gravitation, so another power needs to compensate I think, and secondly, the principle of a merry-go-round?
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  15. nabisah said: this is amazing! thanks
  16. dookiefish reblogged this from sciencesoup and added:
    Q
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