Twist In Saturn's Electric Ring

Saturn's ring current, an invisible torus of particles trapped into orbit around the planet, is bent out of shape. Astronomers are at a loss to explain the lack of symmetry.


(Cassini image of Saturn shows lopsided structure)

Earth also has a ring current that is made primarily of hydrogen; it appears during solar flares. Saturn's ring current is made largely of oxygen and is always present. Scientists believe that Enceladus spews water vapor as it orbits Saturn, replenishing the ring current.

So, scientists are left with a puzzle.

"It's curious that Saturn's ring current isn't symmetric," said Don Mitchell, an astrophysicist at Johns Hopkins University who helped examine the images beamed back to Earth. "We think the solar wind is squishing the sunward side of the ring current, kind of like a wind sock."

Science fiction fans, however, are thinking more ominous thoughts.

In their excellent 1985 novel Footfall, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle (see also just Niven and just Pournelle) write about an alien attack that is presaged by alterations in Saturn's rings.

But the F-ring didn't look normal at all. It showed as three knotted streamers of gas or dust or God knows what all braided together. "Braided," Nat said. "What does that?"

"None of the astronomers wanted to say."

"Okay, I can see why. Catch me in a mistake, I shrug it off. A scientist, he's betting his career."

Later in the novel, the truth comes out.

"...That ship was there all the time we were looking at Saturn. The twisted F-ring... The drive flame from that thing must have roiled the whole ring system...

Via Space.com; thanks to Fred for the tip.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 9/21/2007)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )

Related News Stories - (" Space Tech ")

Russian Space Garden
'We saw the gardens, flooded with artificial sunlight...' - Harley S. Aldinger, 1932.

Make Space Tools On The Spot (Like Moties)
'A moment ago it was squeezing silver toothpaste in a ribbon...' - Niven and Pournelle, 1974.

Bacteria Behave Differently In Space
'The Republic struggled to control its Sours...' - Bruce Sterling, 1985.

SpaceX Spacesuit Design Transmitted By Elon Musk
Welcome, SpaceX, to the club of space suit imaginers and makers.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

effie Automated Ironing Appliance
'Household Automata received an urgent task to develop production units of бытовые тканевые разглаживатели - a household fabric smoother.'

BabyX AI Real Enough For You
'...what's to keep me from showing face, Man? I'm showing a voice this instant... I can show a face the same way.'

We Could Downgrade Puerto Rico - And Thereby Save It
'It was cheaper to pay the refugees to go without up-to-the-minute equipment.'

Pegasus, Nvidia Supercomputer For Autonomous Driving
'...a 2045 convertible with a Hennis-Carleton positronic motor and an Armat chassis.'

Loihi Chip Mimics Human Brain's Neurons And Synapses
'You can hook a Thorsen tube into a control circuit... and the tube will "remember" what was done and can direct the operation...'

Self-Assembling Bacteria Build A Pressure Sensor
Nature is a master of fabricating structured materials consisting of living and non-living components.

3D Printed Artificial Muscles Are Stronger Than Yours
Bots don't need to work out.

Fog Computing (AKA Edge Computing) Ad Hoc Networks
'The tiny devices chirped their impulse codes at one another...'

Dubai Scorpion Police Hoverbike Ready To Pull Young Kirk Over
'Is there a problem, officer?'

Korean Tesla Model S Video 'Excelsior' Is Indeed Our Motto
'Improving man by bringing him close to Nature, while they combine the sensations of coasting with the interest of seeing the country well...'

HEXA Robotic Help For Plants
Then some unknown race had chanced upon the dreamers and decided to "help them out."

DIY Robot Shoots You In The Face
'...there were automatic guns that fired ligamine darts.'

A Bayesian Approach to Safe Imitation Learning For AIs and Robots
Um, how about that pension for the humans who serve as the models for robot behavior?

Qoobo Headless Robotic Therapy Cat Was Anne McCaffrey's Idea
'...used as surrogates in intense dependency cases.'

Autonomous Cars Talk To Each Other At MCity
'My cars talk to one another.'

PUFFER Robots - From Philip K DIck's Second Variety?
'Across the ground something small and metallic came, flashing in the dull sunlight of midday.'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.