Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Space Science

Saturn's Rings Are Ancient 61

Posted by Zonk
from the steady-relationship dept.
gardenermike writes "Analysis of data from the Cassini probe suggests that Saturn's rings may be billions of years old, rather than the previously surmised millions. Previous research suggested that the rings were young, because of the lack of dark dust accumulation on their surfaces. However, the latest data suggests that the ring surfaces are even younger than previously thought, meaning, ironically, that the rings themselves are much older: they are not static enough to collect dust, but rather are continuously recycling material, with clumps continuously forming and disintegrating."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Saturn's Rings Are Ancient

Comments Filter:
  • At least this article didn't try and claim the rings are as old as the universe, like some others [dailytech.com] have. The article itself has been corrected, but the comments towards the end summarise the "insight" of the original article just fine :)
    • At least this article didn't try and claim the rings are as old as the universe, like some others have.
      So, the rings are 6,000 years old then?
  • I know I'm going to get killed for this, but...are you sure this story wasn't about Uranus rather than Saturn?
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      No, the rings around Uranus were only formed this morning.
    • by Convector (897502)
      Assuming you're making an honest inquiry, and not just cashing in on the joke, it is indeed Saturn. Cassini (on whose data this study was based) went to Saturn, not Uranus. Larry Esposito's the PI for the UVIS instrument on Cassini.
      • by hyades1 (1149581) <hyades1@hotmail.com> on Saturday December 15, 2007 @03:18AM (#21706436)

        No, just cashing in on the joke. I've actually been following Cassini from the get-go, and I'm fascinated by what's turned up.

        A century or two ago, my school sent me to the last AAAS meeting in Toronto and I got to see the live data feed from the JPL when Voyager sent back those "braided" ring pictures. Right in the room, almost as fast as they arrived, two or three scientists figured out that a pair of shepherding moons might be responsible for the braiding. They were right, as it turned out.

        There was more amazing science on display at that conference than I've ever seen in my life.

        • A century or two ago, my school sent me to the last AAAS meeting in Toronto...

          Wow, you must be really old.

        • by Agripa (139780)
          A century or two ago, my school sent me to the last AAAS meeting in Toronto and I got to see the live data feed from the JPL when Voyager sent back those "braided" ring pictures. Right in the room, almost as fast as they arrived, two or three scientists figured out that a pair of shepherding moons might be responsible for the braiding. They were right, as it turned out.

          And all along I thought the braided rings were caused by the Thuktun Flishithy [wikipedia.org].
          • by hyades1 (1149581)

            Good one.

            You aren't going to believe this, but I swear to it by everything I hold sacred: Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle were at that conference and I got to hang out with them a fair bit. As a matter of fact, Pournelle directed me to a session I otherwise would have missed where several scientists presented papers that exposed Reagan's Star Wars initiative for the multi-billion dollar cash grab it was. The little university newsletter I was writing for got to be one of the first publications in prin

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Agripa (139780)
              I swear to it by everything I hold sacred: Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle were at that conference and I got to hang out with them a fair bit.

              I am not surprised. Authors often write their own personal experiences into their works including events they have attended.

              Pournelle directed me to a session I otherwise would have missed where several scientists presented papers that exposed Reagan's Star Wars initiative for the multi-billion dollar cash grab it was.

              I am not old enough to have made my own determina
        • by syousef (465911)
          Can I just say you lucky lucky bastard. Was Sagan in the room that day?
  • The Monolith cleans up the rock regularly. Thats why there is no dust on them.

    Seriously though, wouldn't the solar winds have any role in this.
    • by ChromaticDragon (1034458) on Saturday December 15, 2007 @03:42PM (#21710524)
      I rather doubt the solar wind plays much role in "cleaning" up any dust here.

      The mechanisms suggested here don't appear to be so much like a massive fan or a Cosmic Roomba but rather as a VERY LARGE agitator.

      The research isn't necessarily suggesting the rings are ancient. It's saying our reasons for thinking the rings are young aren't as sound anymore. Basically, up until recently for a variety of reasons we thought the rings were young because our understanding led us to the belief that these rings ought to collapse rather soon (either into Saturn or its moons).

      But now we're thinking there are forces which clump and forces which stir up. These work together more or less to recycle the material of the rings themselves. This leads researchers to believe the rings aren't necessarily going to collapse any time soon and indeed may be far older than we originally thought.

      If "birth" of an apple is when it falls from a tree and you see one dropping (but you didn't see it fall and you have no idea where the branch is), you conclude it's "young". You know it's going to hit the ground soon and you know no matter where the branch is, it's not that far up and the apple only goes down. However, if all of a sudden you see a geyser blow and shoot that apple back up again.. and again... and again... you start to realize you really don't have any idea when it first fell off the tree.

  • I, for one, welcome our self cleaning and replicating Ancient overlords!!

    So, we've found the home of the Ancients, and it was in our own solar system the whole time! Who would've thunk?

    • Three Saturn Rings for the Slashdotters under the sky, Seven for the Java-lords in their halls of stone, Nine for Mortal Anti-Microsoft Men doomed to die, One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne In the Land of Microsoft where the Service Packs lie. One Saturn Ring to rule them all, One Saturn Ring to find them, One Saturn Ring to bring them all together and in the Microsoft darkness bind them In the Land of Microsoft Vista where the Buggy-Bugs lie.-- J R R Tolkien, amended and perverted
  • by Fyz (581804) on Saturday December 15, 2007 @03:21AM (#21706454)
    Just because there is evidence that rings could be ancient, doesn't mean that they are. They could still go through this recycling process and still be formed by cometary impacts at a time later than the planetary formation phase.
    • I agree. And it isn't news, either: Larry Esposito has been saying this (and sending out press-releases) for years to this effect. He's just found another small bit of evidence that supports -- or at least doesn't refute -- his idea.
  • by Kohath (38547) on Saturday December 15, 2007 @03:39AM (#21706498)
    Saturn's rings smell like licorice, according to the probe. This comes as a shock, since the scientific consensus has been that they'd smell almost precisely like a wet dog.

  • by iamacat (583406) on Saturday December 15, 2007 @04:21AM (#21706666)
    Overwhelming majority of features in the solar system are at least a billion years old. Anything younger should have obvious signs of recent formation. For the Rings of Saturn, we would expect to see some rocks still settling into circular orbit, remainder of the disintegrating satellite or at least markedly non-uniform size of composing rocks. So how did the scientists come up with this unlikely hypothesis of the rings having just formed by astronomical time scale in the first place? Even (primitive) life on Earth probably existing for millions of years.
    • 1. Rings are as I understand it in general unstable or were thought to be so, given a relatively short amount of time (millions of years for large planets) they will break up.
      2. Saturn's rings have particle ranging from mm to many meters in size.
      3. You are complaining of a million years being short yet at the same time expect us to see changes that would take millions of years to happen? Are you drunk or simply insane.
      4. Life on earth is billions of years old, our own primate ancestors were around millions
    • There are many things in the solar system that are younger than 4.55 Gyr; a lot of asteroids, for example, are the results of more recent breakups. You have impact craters and other geologic features on practically all bodies. Honestly, assuming that anything you look at is primordial is a pretty daft assumption unless you can make *some* argument as to why it should be.

      As for Saturn's rings, a modicum of research would tell you that there are both dynamical reasons to think that rings are younger (models
  • by DreamerFi (78710) <john AT sinteur DOT com> on Saturday December 15, 2007 @05:01AM (#21706772) Homepage
    Quote: [blogspot.com]

    It is possible - and I think Walt Brown may have it right on this one - that Saturn's rings are from the Earth - believe it or not, I know it sounds crazy - let me explain. He says when the fountains of the deep broke open - Genesis Chapter 7 - the pressure of 10 or 15 miles of rock [...] the pressure 10 or 15 miles down is phenomenal [...] So if there was water in the crust of the Earth like the Bible says there was [...] then this water would come shooting up to the surface when the "fountains of the deep" broke open and the Earth busted up like an eggshell. That water shooting up would have enough pressure - according to Walt Brown - to eject things into space. They would drift around for awhile - who knows for a couple of hundred years - and run into something like Saturn and make the rings.
    Truth Radio 6 June 2006 @ 26:30 (Tape 2)


    (click the link for more great examples of Kevin Hovind's logic and reasoning)
  • re (Score:2, Interesting)

    by JohnVanVliet (945577)
    just a screen shot of Saturn's rings i posted in a diff. forum
    http://img181.imagevenue.com/img.php?loc=loc37&image=55459_satring_122_37lo.jpg [imagevenue.com]
    the image is 1024x718
  • If the rings are 4.5 billion years old, what process is maintaining them? If they are just an aggregate of rocks in orbit around a planet, their orbits should have decayed and they should have fallen into Saturn about 4.49 billion years ago. Obviously something completely out of the realm of our current understanding is going on.
    • Why would the orbits decay? Are you worried that the Moon will be hitting us soon?
      • by dtjohnson (102237)
        Why would the orbits decay? Are you worried that the Moon will be hitting us soon?

        I thought the idea of decaying orbits was obvious but...maybe not. Generally, yes, the Moon's orbit is decaying and has been doing so since it was formed. Eventually, in a couple of billion years, as a result of tidal interactions between the Moon and Earth as well as the Sun, the Moon will approach more closely to the Earth and break apart into short-lived Saturn-like rings that will then rain down upon the Earth. The ri
        • Why is it obvious? Your example, the Moon, is dead wrong. Our Moon is moving away from the Earth, not towards it. (Granted, in about 5 billion years, after the Earth is likely to be gone anyway, it will reverse direction because of the effects of solar tides on the Earth. But the the collision, if the Earth survives that long, is therefore ~15 billion years off, three times the age of the solar system.) The ring material isn't even subject to those forces since they aren't large enough individually to
    • by PPH (736903)
      Saturn kicked in the extra money for the extended maintenance contract.
  • Who's worse, the people who don't understand and therefore misuse the word irony, or the the people who don't understand and then call every use of the word irony they see incorrect? I'm not sure what these taggers THINK irony means, but "However, the latest data suggests that the ring surfaces are even younger than previously thought, meaning, ironically, that the rings themselves are much older" is a perfect example of it.
    • To me the phrase, "However, the latest data suggests that the ring surfaces are even younger than previously thought, meaning, ironically, that the rings themselves are much older" is fine. According to http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=irony/ [reference.com], irony can be:

      5. an outcome of events contrary to what was, or might have been, expected.
      6. the incongruity of this.

      Is this not recognised as irony? It certainly is a commonly used meaning for the word.

A motion to adjourn is always in order.

Working...