KSAT Kids Home Science: Saturn’s Glowing Rings

See how the planet’s rings are made of rocks and ice even though they look smooth

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SAN ANTONIOEditor’s note: This story was published through a partnership between the STEMToyExpert.com and KSAT.

Hello parents, teachers and students!

Are you looking for something fun to do at home that has a little bit of science behind it?

Well check out this awesome at-home experiment that shows you how Saturn’s rings are made of rocks and ice chunks even though they look so smooth in pictures. You’ll also see why there are big gaps in the rings.

Science enthusiasts and educators at the STEMToyExpert.com put this together.

Saturn’s Glowing Rings

Younger kids take delight in using a flashlight and sprinkling powder, while older kids can get more specific with questions about Saturn and how the rocks and ice stay in orbit.

Questions to ask beforehand:

  • Do Saturn’s rings give off their own light?
  • Why are some rocks and ice chunks more lit up than others?
  • Compare the results of light sprinkles to thicker sprinkles.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Newspaper
  • Strong flashlight
  • Powder (flour, baby powder, etc) in a shaker
  • Very dark room

Procedure/Instructions:

  • Darken a room and set the flashlight on the edge of a table or counter, pointing it at a blank wall. Lay the newspaper on the floor between the flashlight and the wall.
  • Turn on the flashlight and notice where the light comes from the flashlight and where it hits the wall. You should only see the light from these two places and not from the space between them. This shows you that the light travels through the air without being seen until it hits the wall. The light represents the sun’s light.
  • Now to see how Saturn’s rings glow: Hold the powder shaker and sprinkle some powder over the beam of light where you know the light is traveling. You’ll notice the powder lights up and sparkles in the beam of light. The powder shows in glowing clumps, just like in Saturn’s rings.

About the Author:

Ben Spicer is a digital journalist who works the early morning shift for KSAT.