My space colonists have found a home in the ring system of a (maybe chthonian) gas giant. The rings are based on Saturn's in terms of appearance, but can they be made of gases or liquid (maybe droplets) instead of rocks? I know it doesn't sound right since rings are made of solid materials, but I know similar structures exist out of gas and plasma (plasma torus).

  • $\begingroup$ Liquid usually requires non vacuum pressure so probably not. Not sure about gas. $\endgroup$
    – jaboja
    Apr 23 '16 at 16:24
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    $\begingroup$ Gasses would fly away into space. Liquids (if they didn't evaporate) would be broken into small droplets by gravitational/tidal forces, just as a solid ring would. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Apr 23 '16 at 18:14
  • $\begingroup$ No. Enough said $\endgroup$ Apr 23 '16 at 21:08
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    $\begingroup$ You're right; the gas/plasma torus seems to fit your description. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Apr 23 '16 at 21:30
  • $\begingroup$ Most liquids freeze and become solid in the temperatures of outer space. Many gases become liquids at extreme cold temperatures which also could even freeze into a solid. You would need a close extreme heat source to keep them in there native state. Even being the 3rd from the sun, you leave our orbit and it super cold again. $\endgroup$
    – cybernard
    Apr 30 '16 at 0:45

Rings containing gas are actually studied as part of planet formation. This causes fluid-dynamic effects such as drag. So, the gas ring is short lived, and meanwhile interacts with the solid bodies.

That's "short" on a geologic scale though. If the conditions hold for a few thosand years, people might decide to move in.

So how can this be? Answer: it's recent. Take a look at Saturn, which you mentioned, for further inspiration. When the inner moons are demolished you get an extended debris field for a (geologically short, human long) time before reforming into fresh moons and short-lived rings. This happened most recently 115 million years ago.

Now your system is not Saturn, but different. The moons can be made to contain lots of water, and orbital instability causes a chain reaction that shreds them... and something else about the planet or the star somehow makes it warm enough to make a vapor ring, or liquid moonlets that stay heated rather than freezing, or something.

Hey, how about a pulsar? The old sun might "microwave" liquid water to keep it not frozen, even after it blew the gas off the original gas giant. Maybe it's a magnitar, and the re-forming of the planetary system after the supernova could cause the chtonian reminent to migrate inwards, as forming planets do in new systems.

So the intense magnetic field of the pulsar and the iron planet keep moonlets and dust in a tight orbit along with gas that doesn't dispurse because its angular momentum can't go anywhere (handwaving... it's sheaparded to remain stable). And, it stays nice and warm, in the liquid-water region.

So, Nivin's Smoke Ring in miniature, with pulsar planets.

  • $\begingroup$ Instead of having an exotic star, I'd prefer to have the planet very close to its star to make it chthonian; it should work as well, except I think it would further destabilize the ring. if it's a gas ring do you have any idea how dense could it be? $\endgroup$ May 2 '16 at 7:28
  • $\begingroup$ Depends on how close to that sun it is. Temperature matters a great deal here. (+1 for the options on meltyforce) $\endgroup$
    – The Nate
    May 2 '16 at 17:41
  • $\begingroup$ Well, "hot jupiters" are so hot that iron is a gas! So if it's close enough to have lost the envelope in a few billion years, and the sun is still the same, the remaining body will (still) be very hot. If you want gasses, you will have heavy elements not traditional volatiles. By your postulate, all the normal "gas" has gone already. In this case, the extended gas envelope can be replentished by continued sublimation of the planet. And the gas, made of stuff like iron vapor, is affected by the magnetic fields... $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    May 2 '16 at 18:10
  • $\begingroup$ @JDługosz I thought metals in the gas phase do not retain magnetic properties ?! $\endgroup$ May 5 '16 at 8:52
  • $\begingroup$ Right, the normal "ferromagnetism" you are familiar with is a property of the bulk material. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    May 7 '16 at 1:02

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