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The Question

(Submitted November 11, 1997)

What is the average thickness of the rings of Saturn?

The Answer

According to http://starchild.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/StarChild/solar_system_level2/saturn.html
>The thickness of the rings ranges from 10 to 100 meters and the rings vary >in brightness.

According to http://www.seds.org/billa/tnp/saturn.html

>   Though they look continuous from the Earth, the rings are actually
>composed of innumerable small particles each in an independent orbit.
>They range in size from a centimeter or so to several meters. A few
>kilometer-sized objects are also likely.
>
>   Saturn's rings are extraordinarily thin: though they're 250,000 km or
>more in diameter they're no more than 1.5 kilometers thick. Despite
>their impressive appearance, there's really very little material in the
>rings -- if the rings were compressed into a single body it would be no
>more than 100 km across.

The 300 km number is probably from before space probes such as Voyager visited the planet.

David Palmer
for Ask an Astrophysicist

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