What if Earth had rings like Saturn? What it would look like? Probably, our sky would look amazing. The rings would look quite different from the cities and latitudes across the world. It’s interesting to imagine how it would affect the culture throughout time. It would have influenced religion, mythology, navigation, etc.

What Earth would look like with rings like Saturn

In the video created by Roy Prol below, you can see what Earth would look like with rings like Saturn. Ring views from the Earth’s surface were created according to the location’s latitude, northern or southern hemisphere, and the viewer’s orientation. The size of the rings was calculated respecting the Roche limit for the Earth.

What Earth would look like with rings like Saturn

The Roche limit sometimes referred to as the Roche radius, is the distance within which a celestial body, held together only by its own gravity, will disintegrate due to a second celestial body’s tidal forces exceeding the first body’s gravitational self-attraction.

Inside the Roche limit, orbiting material disperses and forms rings whereas outside the limit material tends to coalesce.

The term is named after Édouard Roche, who is the French astronomer who first calculated this theoretical limit in 1848. Read more about the Roche limit on Wikipedia.

Song: Franz Schubert’s Ave Maria, sung by Barbara Bonney, the American soprano (born April 14, 1956).

The rings would be aligned with Earth’s equator, and they would appear across the sky from east to west. Near the equator, the rings would appear thin and perpendicular to the horizon. But far from the equator, they would appear much wider and close to the horizon.

The rings would appear very bright in the night sky because they would reflect the Sun’s light, they are even more reflective than our Moon.

What Earth would look like with rings like Saturn? Paris
What Earth would look like with rings like Saturn? Paris, with the city’s symbol Eiffel Tower, would look like this.

There would be also a shadow of the rings. The position of the shadow would change throughout the year. It the rings were in the plane of the equator, like in the video, the shadow would be a thin one on the equator during the vernal equinox.

Over the next three months approaching the southern hemisphere winter solstice (June), the ring shadow would move south and get wider, reaching the southernmost position and becoming the widest at the solstice. Over the next three months, it would trace a path back to the equator. The other half of the year, it would trace a similar path in the northern hemisphere around their winter solstice (December).

The equatorial shadow during the equinoxes may actually disappear if the rings are too thin to actually block the sun completely. Also, it’s not the rings that would appear to change position in the sky, it’s the usual changing position of the sun as the seasons’ change that would cause this.

Hubble's Latest Portrait of Saturn (June 20, 2019)
Saturn’s Rings Shine in Hubble’s Latest Portrait. “Saturn is so beautiful that astronomers cannot resist using the Hubble Space Telescope to take yearly snapshots of the ringed world when it is at its closest distance to Earth.” Image: NASA

Update: a new video

What If” channel has also published a new video on this topic:

What if Earth had rings like Saturn?
Jupiter…. Uranus…. Saturn… Earth? Sadly, Earth didn’t make it onto the list of the Solar System’s ringed planets. If it did, would it still be able to host life?
Having planetary rings visible in the sky would look way more spectacular than just one grey rock, right? Maybe. But if our planet got beautiful rings like these tomorrow, much of life on Earth might not survive the renovation process.

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.