Saturn has rings of debris which orbit it, and it is possible to get a satellite into an orbit that will at least last a few years, so my question is as follows; How many satellites (or just the pure volume of material if it is easier) would we have to launch into a temporary orbit (unless a permanent orbit is possible) to create at least one artificial ring around Earth that is visible to the naked eye.

  • $\begingroup$ It's a simple math problem, the question just is how far away do you want the ring? $\endgroup$
    – Halfthawed
    Nov 28, 2019 at 4:49
  • $\begingroup$ Does it needs to be visible to the naked eye day and night or only night and can it have artificial lights? $\endgroup$
    – Slarty
    Nov 28, 2019 at 9:11
  • $\begingroup$ @Slarty No lights, and visible only at night if necessary (it is basically for someone trying to show there authority over the other space corporations). $\endgroup$
    – B-K
    Nov 28, 2019 at 9:16
  • $\begingroup$ The Rings of Saturn are not permanent, but are calculated to last for about tens of millions more years, I think, so that seems pretty permanent by human time scales. The Moon has been orbiting the Earth for probably about 4,000,000,000 years or so, but has slowly but steadily moved farther from Earth in that time. There is no problem with fining more or less "permanent" orbits for the ring particles, though it would probably be more expensive to put them in permanent orbits than temporary ones. $\endgroup$ Nov 28, 2019 at 16:22

1 Answer 1


Quite a lot.

From a quick internet search I have found this

a ring of 480,000,000 copper dipole antennas (needles which were 1.78 centimetres long and 25.4 micrometres [1961] or 17.8 micrometres [1963] in diameter) was placed in orbit to facilitate global radio communication.

More in detail

The US Military launched 480 million copper needles into orbit around Earth in a project called Project West Ford. Scientists could bounce radio signals off the needles and communicate between two locations on Earth. This worked for a few months after launch, until the needles were too far dispersed to allow for communication. In theory, if needles were continuously launched, it would be a functioning communications system

You can get a ballpark figure from the quoted text above. In medium Earth orbit you would need hundreds of millions of small objects to create a temporary ring. The further away you go from Earth, the more objects you would need to saturate the orbit.

To keep the same linear density you would need to scale up the number by the same factor you scale up the orbit radius (2x as far the orbit will be 2x as long requiring 2x as many objects).

  • $\begingroup$ Was the West Ford ring visible to the naked eye from Earth under any circumstances? If not, a denser concentration of copper needles or other objects would be needed to be visible, and the question would become how many multiples of the West Ford launch(es) would be needed for a visible ring? $\endgroup$ Nov 28, 2019 at 16:17

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