Say “Saturn” and the next word someone will probably say is “rings.” But all the outer planets of our solar system have rings, too, so why does Saturn get the glory? Saturn’s rings are the only ones visible from Earth without a powerful telescope. Even though you can see Jupiter without a telescope at all, no one spotted Jupiter’s rings until a space mission in 1979. Saturn’s rings have a more impressive radius than Jupiter’s, stretching about 165,000 miles further into space. Also, water ice and rock form Saturn’s rings—and some of those rocks are as big as mountains—while Jupiter’s rings are only dust.
Saturn’s rings are easy to see, but not easy to understand. Even though Pioneer 1 flew by Saturn in 1979, astronomers still don’t know how Saturn’s rings formed or how long the planet has had its famous rings.