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Space Science

Saturn's Moon Prometheus Spawning Moonlets 47

Posted by Soulskill
from the hi-NerdyMcNerderson-i-am-Soulskill-on-reddit dept.
astroengine writes "For the first time ever, astronomers have witnessed the formation of celestial objects... in Saturn's rings. As the Saturnian moon Prometheus dashes through the gas giant's rings, it leaves large formations of ice behind, some as large as 12 kilometers in diameter. When the small moon makes another pass, it is not known whether these giant 'snowballs' remain or get destroyed, but according to Linda Spilker, from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory: 'You can think of Saturn's rings as miniature versions of the disks where planets form. The same physical processes are occurring.'" The Planetary Society blog has further explanation, as well as pictures and a movie of Prometheus' interaction with Saturn's rings. The Cassini team has released some fantastic images of the fans and clumps in the F ring, as well as a simulation showing how the ring's particles are affected by the moon's passing.
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Saturn's Moon Prometheus Spawning Moonlets

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  • by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Friday July 23, 2010 @04:00PM (#33006976) Homepage Journal

    It's a space stationlet.

    .
  • by assemblerex (1275164) on Friday July 23, 2010 @04:07PM (#33007078)
    Couldn't a space ship or probe come by and pick up one of the "small" moonlets and use it for fuel? 12KM of pre-frozen volatile organic matter sounds like a great windfall if you ask me.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      When we're at the stage that we can land on these kinds of objects (The Japs have managed to get one of their probes to 'land' or 'dock' with an asteroid I think) - then we've got the problems that come with efficiently harvesting and refining the materials.

      Don't get me wrong, I think the idea has merrit, but we haven't reached that stage of the game yet. We would still need to probe it extensively - see how much of it is usable, recreate the conditions it occurs in to engineer a way to refine it, then make

      • by PagosaSam (884523)
        "We would still need to probe it extensively..."

        .

        What's with outer space that make everyone want to probe something? Even the aliens like to do it, I'm told.

    • I think that this is a very dangerous idea. Didn't you read the title, "Saturn's Moon Prometheus Spawning Moonlets?" How would you feel, if Prometheus knocked on your front door, and explained, "I'm just here to pick up your kids for fuel."

      As the Vulcans shake their heads, and try to think up ways of sabotaging our warp drives.

      Before we set off for a romp around the solar system, we had better teach ourselves some outer space etiquette . . . like, "No using other folks' kids for fuel."

      Definitely.

    • by mldi (1598123)

      Couldn't a space ship or probe come by and pick up one of the "small" moonlets and use it for fuel? 12KM of pre-frozen volatile organic matter sounds like a great windfall if you ask me.

      Or just feed the astronauts Chipotle and you got the same thing right on board!

  • by Drakkenmensch (1255800) on Friday July 23, 2010 @04:07PM (#33007086)
    ... to create moonlets. This time he's getting lots more eaten by the eagle than just his liver.
    • This time he's getting lots more eaten by the eagle than just his liver.

      Yeah. Don't you just hate it when that happens?

      (Wonder how many people are going to get your reference to Greek mythology...)

      • Wonder how many people are going to get your reference to Greek mythology...

        Hopefully the people who played God of War 2 at least. Releasing him from Atlas' grip so he could burn in the fire of the gods and escape his eternal torment was a key puzzle in escaping from the underworld.

      • by john83 (923470)

        This time he's getting lots more eaten by the eagle than just his liver.

        Yeah. Don't you just hate it when that happens?

        (Wonder how many people are going to get your reference to Greek mythology...)

        And I wonder how many more think it's a reference to Terry Pratchett's The Last Hero.

      • In this place... quite a few. Even those who don't might use their google/wiki-fu to look up Prometheus.
        • by treeves (963993)
          Prometheus...always reminds me of P.D.Q. Bach's Overture to the Preachers of Crimetheus.
    • ghd australia [hair-ghd-s...htener.com] think this article is good!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...coming out of Uranus.

  • by need4mospd (1146215) on Friday July 23, 2010 @04:14PM (#33007164)
    Summary says 12 kilometers, article says 12 miles in diameter. Is it really that hard to get right? You could always say it's 3,862,425,600,000 beard seconds in diameter...
    • That unit of measure is too variable. What if another group like Z Z Top gets famous and throws the average time a beard grows per second off?
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Beard seconds are obviously based on Chuck Norris's beard.

        • by pigeon768 (589860)
          Chuck Norris' beard grows at infinite speed to exactly the right length, and then ceases to grow - that is, it grows at speed 0. So every length in the universe is either infinite beard seconds long or zero beard seconds long.
    • The submitter is currently in Europe, according to his blog, so perhaps he's in do-as-the-Romans mode? He reads every number as if it has a European unit of measure attached to it. Hey, it's a lot easier than actually doing the conversion and ending up with inconvenient fractions....

      • by Lifyre (960576)

        Well to start with he'd be silly to use fractions in a system that deplores them...

    • Maybe it's just following in the NASA tradition.
    • But what if it is potato-like asteroid 12 miles long and 12 km wide?

  • Katamari? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Flea of Pain (1577213) on Friday July 23, 2010 @04:21PM (#33007252)

    Am I the only one who pictured something to do with Katamari in regards to flying through the rings forming larger objects?

  • It's the Fithp

    Say did Niven & Pournelle ever write a sequel to that?

  • Crappy summary (Score:3, Informative)

    by northernfrights (1653323) on Friday July 23, 2010 @04:51PM (#33007614)
    Should have included this bit from the article:

    "Over time, the disrupted particles -- mostly dense, sticky ice -- can take on a life of their own, clumping together under their own growing gravitational force."

    The summary only talks about celestial objects destroying each other, then simply states that scientists are witnessing the "creation" of objects. We've seen stuff smash together all the time. The subject matter at hand is what happens afterward.
    • by Daetrin (576516)
      Which summary were you reading? The one i see mentions "formation" several times and talks about how exciting it is, and the only reference to destruction is "When the small moon makes another pass, it is not known whether these giant 'snowballs' remain or get destroyed."

      How did you translate "Lots of stuff is getting formed and we're learning a lot about the formation process, though we don't know if these things get destroyed later or not" into "The summary only talks about celestial objects destroying
  • I thought they got canned by GM.

    *Ducks*

  • Ice is made of water, but it is a solid. So, is this a #1 or #2?

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