Given its similarities to its neighbor, Saturn, it seems natural to ask why Jupiter doesn't also have a magnificent, extensive system of visible rings.

While Jupiter does have rings, they're thin, tenuous, flimsy things of dust, visible only when back-lit by the Sun.

According to new research, these discount rings lack bling because Jupiter's posse of chonky Galilean moons keep discs of rock and dust from accumulating the way they do around Saturn.

"It's long bothered me why Jupiter doesn't have even more amazing rings that would put Saturn's to shame," said astrophysicist Stephen Kane of the University of California Riverside.

"If Jupiter did have them, they'd appear even brighter to us, because the planet is so much closer than Saturn."

To interrogate the idea of a giant ring system forming around Jupiter at some point in its history, Kane and his colleague, astrophysicist Zhexing Li of UC Riverside, conducted a series of simulations of the objects orbiting the Jovian system.

These simulations took into account the orbital motion of Jupiter, and the motions of its four largest moons, also known as the Galilean moons: Ganymede (which is larger than Mercury, and the largest moon in the Solar System), Callisto, Io, and Europa. Into this mix, the team added how long it might take for a ring system to form.

Under this modeling, Jupiter can't have Saturn-style rings – and it's unlikely that it ever did, the researchers said.

"Massive planets form massive moons, which prevents them from having substantial rings," Kane explained. "We found that the Galilean moons of Jupiter, one of which is the largest moon in our Solar System, would very quickly destroy any large rings that might form."

Jupiter's presently flimsy rings are mostly made of dust ejected by some of its moons, possibly including material thrown out into space from impact events.

The research has been accepted into the Planetary Science Journal, and is available on arXiv.