Saturn's Rings To Vanish, Let's Mine Them While We Can

Even in my tiny backyard telescope, Saturn's rings are a mighty statement about our solar system. Indeed, about our universe.

I should count myself as lucky, apparently.

"We are lucky to be around to see Saturn's ring system, which appears to be in the middle of its lifetime," lead author James O'Donoghue, a space physicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, said in a statement. "However, if rings are temporary, perhaps we just missed out on seeing giant ring systems of Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune, which have only thin ringlets today!"

(Via Space.com.)


(Saturn's Rings Will One Day Vanish)

It turns out that science fiction writers have been working on this problem, and they have the solution.

In his 1974 near-classic The Computer Connection, Hugo award-winning sf writer Alfred Bester proposed harvesting Saturn's rings:

Saturn was quite a sight as it came looming up... Alas, only the two inner rings remain. Despite violent protests by ecologists and cosmologists, the Better Building Conglomerate had been permitted to harvest the third outer ring for some kind of better building aggregate. There was a housing crisis, and the [Conglomerate] paid enormous taxes. One infuriated astronomer had been euthanized for burning the chairman of the board.

As wonderfully imaginative as Bester was, he was not the first to suggest the idea. In his 1941 story The Day We Celebrate, writer Nelson S. Bond praises outer space workers:

In the outer rings of Saturn worked space placers, gathering to earth's wealth the valuable shards of what had once been satellites.
(Read more about space placers)

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