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Space Science

'Ring Rain' Quenches Saturn's Atmosphere 30

Posted by Soulskill
from the can-i-borrow-somebody's-spaceship dept.
astroengine writes "Saturn's rings rain charged water particles down onto the gas giant's atmosphere, causing measurable changes in the planet's ionosphere. This intriguing conclusion comes from astronomers using the W. M. Keck Observatory atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii that observed dark bands forming in Saturn's ionosphere. 'Saturn is the first planet to show significant interaction between its atmosphere and ring system,' said James O'Donoghue, postgraduate researcher at the University of Leicester and lead author of a paper to appear this week in the journal Nature. 'The main effect of ring rain is that it acts to 'quench' the ionosphere of Saturn, severely reducing the electron densities in regions in which it falls.'"
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'Ring Rain' Quenches Saturn's Atmosphere

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  • Wow, so they really are Rings of Power.
    • by gstoddart (321705)

      Wow, so they really are Rings of Power.

      Well, Rings of Quenching the Ionosphere at least, not sure that translates into 'power' in the sense you mean. ;-)

      • Actually, I was thinking of both the 'Rings of Power' and electrical power, since it rains down 'charged' particles that affect the electron density of the ionosphere.
        • by gstoddart (321705)

          I was hoping I could make a Ring of Ionospheric Quenching in Skyrim, but I'm not sure what it would do. ;-)

          • by rts008 (812749)

            Maybe the ring could provide resistance to 'storm'/electric attacks?

            Have the ring inhibit storm attacks within a radius of the ring?

            Those are just off the top of my head.....

            • by gstoddart (321705)

              LOL, gotta love Slashdot ... if the joke is geeky enough, someone will respond to it seriously. ;-)

        • by cffrost (885375)

          Actually, I was thinking of both the 'Rings of Power' and electrical power, since it rains down 'charged' particles that affect the electron density of the ionosphere.

          Your post reminded me of this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kelvin_water_dropper [wikipedia.org]

  • As I've always said, those other planets are so left of center, they don't even self-regulate properly. At least we kicked out that lazy, good for nothing "planet" on the edge of our solar system. All I'm saying is that it's a good thing we live on earth, where the environment never changes due to the interference of outside sources.

    Now excuse me, I have to get back to writing my Glenn Beck / Pat Robertson totally-not-erotic buddy cop fan fiction.
  • and, aw shit I can't think of a good rhyme with away.
  • Isn't that a Peter Gabriel song?
  • 'Saturn is the first planet to show significant interaction between its atmosphere and ring system.'

    I mean, wouldn't you expect the Saturn system to be the first place you would find something like that?

    • There are rings around Uranus.

      • Yeah, but the doctor said... oh, write your own punchline.
      • We are certainly measuring emission from Uranus, but it is so far away, that it's difficult to get enough signal to say much of anything about the ionospheric variability. It would certainly be interesting to attempt to look at whether this would have an effect at Uranus. The Uranian rings are much less massive, though, so I tend to believe the effect would be less pronounced too.
    • To be honest, we really didn't expect to find it at any of the planets. It was proposed as a theory, with some evidence, at the time of Voyager, but has been relatively ignored since that time. Certainly, we would have looked for this effect at Saturn, if we'd thought it was a likely process, but in addition, the H3+ emission we measured in the paper is very weak. The first detection on the body of the planet was only last year, and it was only though the use of Keck, with its giant bucket-like collectin
      • by cusco (717999)
        Jupiter's vicinity has the nastiest radiation of any planet in the solar system, far worse than Saturn's. Does this help to explain why there's such a large difference?
        • The presence of the rings could certainly have a dampening effect on the radiation belts at Saturn, when compared with Jupiter. Interestingly, I'm currently working on a study that attempts to measure the effect of the radiation belt of Jupiter on the ionosphere - it has been invoked numerous times to explain increased emission towards the equator, but my recent studies of the nightside of the planet have suggested its effect is limited.
  • Check out this electric explanation of Saturn's moon's "gysers".

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ia3_VsEAvk8 [youtube.com]

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