Size distribution of particles in planetary rings

Richard Greenberg, Donald R. Davis, William K. Hartmann, Clark R. Chapman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Harris (Icarus 24, 190-192) has suggested that the maximum size of particles in a planetary ring is controlled by collisional fragmentation rather than by tidal stress. While this conclusion is probably true, estimated radius limits must be revised upward from Harris' values of a few kilometers by at least an order of magnitude. Accretion of particles within Roche's limit is also possible. These considerations affect theories concerning the evolution of Saturn's rings, of the Moon, and of possible former satellites of Mercury and Venus. In the case of Saturn's rings, comparison of various theoretical scenarios with available observational evidence suggests that the rings formed from the breakup of larger particles rather than from original condensation as small particles. This process implies a distribution of particle sizes in Saturn's rings possibly ranging up to ∼100 km but with most cross-section in cm-scale particles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)769-779
Number of pages11
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1977

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Size distribution of particles in planetary rings'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this