# How would möbius strip planetary ring system be possible?

Long story short I need a unique ring system around a Jovian planet and thus I think of möbius strip.

Can a gas giant have a ring system shaped like möbius strip exist naturally?

Why do I post such question you ask? I must refer you to talk to the chicken at the starting line on the möbius strip.

• You would need a ring which was joined together to form a single structural mass, rather than, for example, the rings of Saturn which are an arrangement of unconnected free-floating bodies. This is possible as an enormous engineering project by an advanced civilisation but would never occur naturally. – Max Williams Nov 12 '15 at 11:59

In short: No.

The kicker here is orbital speed. For a ring shaped like a Mobius strip you have to have a lot of parts moving in a very specific pattern at a range of orbital distances, not all of which share the same orbital speeds. As a result some parts of your 'strip' are going to move out of synch with the other parts of the strip, leading to a seemingly chaotic thick ring that periodically aligns to make a Mobius strip (though the period is going to be really, really long)

Here's an example of what I mean. The balls start off in a line, but because they have different periodicities that pattern quickly disappears. The orbital periods of every part of the ring will be different.

The other issue you're going to have is forming the rings. Generally rings are formed by captured objects tearing apart under gravitational stress, and since the vast majority of 'stuff' that goes into the rings was also around when the planet was formed that means the rings will be formed on the same plane as the planet, due to the need to conserve the angular momentum of whatever formed them. I can't think of a way round this requirement for making rings that doesn't lead to the entire ring system either dispersing or being pulled back into a stable ring configuration.

Maybe you've just hit upon the secret of Jupiter's rings though. Eventually the various parts will align to form the cosmic equivalent of drawing on the wall of a toilet cubicle, and a type III civilisation somewhere will wet itself with laughter.

NO. BUT...

As others have pointed out Moebius rings may be a little bit too eccentric to be actually plausible, but the closest (and coolest) you can get is having a set of warped rings in which the innermost rim has a different plane than the outermost… though not actually a moebius strip, the effect is somewhat similar.

The rings in our Solar System are all found on distant and cold ice giants, too far from the sun to really be morphologically affected by its gravitational pull; however it is theorized that exoplanets of the Hot Jupiter kind, which all reside well inside the so called ice line, can have a sufficiently large Roche radii to support optically thick rings, even accounting for the different composition (rock instead of ice).

Assuming this hypothetical gas giant also possess some degree of axial tilt, the innermost set of rings will lie on the planet rotational plane while tidal forces from the star would cause the outermost part of the rings to be aligned with the orbital plane, resulting in a beautifully dynamic ribbon around the planet. Since the rings would be composed mostly of rock instead of ice, they would appear quite opaque, much like a solid strip of paper.

This is far from stable tough because the star’s vicinity will eventually erode the planetary axial tilt, but according to some research the rings can last at least a million years (however the larger the rings, the farther the planet can be from its star since Laplacian planes tend to align with orbital planes as they move away from the planet, regardless of tidal forces)

• +1 for giving a cool alternative in addition to the answer! – Dan Henderson Oct 2 '17 at 16:17

It seems very unlikely. Gravity makes rings exactly the way we see them and even if a passing body disturbed the ring, it would slowly go back to a ring shape.

The only thing I can imagine is a pair of captured moons orbiting around each other, tracing a slow spiral around the ring in the same orbit but opposite direction, with exactly half a spiral done when they get back to the same point on the ring, eventually shaping the ring's edges into the same half spiral, giving you your möbius strip.

I think that the physics would not check out. The ring would likely be torn apart and the moons' orbits would never be stable. Still, it would make a pretty picture. .

• Nice try, but did you consider that rings are known to exist because they are inside the Rocke limit. I.e., your pair of moons would also break up from the tidal forces. – Gary Walker Nov 13 '15 at 11:59
• Yeah, as I mention, I don't think it could work. As a backup, maybe the two moons breaking up while spiraling would form the ring from their debris! – Cyrus Nov 13 '15 at 12:02