Introduction

The Voyager 1 and 2 encounters of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune provided us for the first time detailed views of the ring systems of all four planets, and, for the first time, in color. The images and other data from Voyager were a snapshot in time of rings whose features vary over intervals of years, and in some cases over months or even days. Occasional observations of these ring systems by the Hubble Space Telescope and other Earth-based observatories provided the first evidence of this variability, and data from the Cassini Orbiter have provided ample evidence of that variability in Saturn's ring system.

In prior chapters, we have made an effort to provide with every major ring characteristic an estimate of similar conditions within the ring systems of the other gas giant planets. Because much can be learned about each ring system from such "comparative planetology of the giant planet ring systems'', we have chosen to gather together in one chapter all such comparisons. These comparisons are organized below under the topics of ring dimensions, ring azimuthal structure, ring-particle characteristics, gravitational interactions of rings with satellites, electromagnetic interactions of rings with magnetic fields, ring creation, evolution and age, and unanswered questions. Most of the comparisons will be in text form, although tables and figures will be used where they tell the story more clearly.

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