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NASA Discovers Giant Ring Around Saturn

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the headlines-that-aren't-as-stupid-as-they-sound dept.

Space 255

caffiend666 writes with news that scientists using the Spitzer Space Telescope have discovered a very large, previously unknown ring around the planet Saturn. According to NASA, if the ring were visible to the naked eye from Earth, it would cover a patch of sky roughly twice the angular diameter of the Moon. "The new belt lies at the far reaches of the Saturnian system, with an orbit tilted 27 degrees from the main ring plane. The bulk of its material starts about six million kilometers away from the planet and extends outward roughly another 12 million kilometers. One of Saturn's farthest moons, Phoebe, circles within the newfound ring, and is likely the source of its material. Saturn's newest halo is thick, too — its vertical height is about 20 times the diameter of the planet. It would take about one billion Earths stacked together to fill the ring. ... The ring itself is tenuous, made up of a thin array of ice and dust particles. Spitzer's infrared eyes were able to spot the glow of the band's cool dust. The telescope, launched in 2003, is currently 107 million kilometers from Earth in orbit around the sun."

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255 comments

I thought that Saturn... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29669939)

always had a giant ring around it?

Good thing... (4, Funny)

BeneathTheVeil (305107) | more than 4 years ago | (#29669955)

...it wasn't a giant ring around Uranus.

Yeah, yeah, just thought I'd get that out of the way early.

Re:Good thing... (1)

robinsonne (952701) | more than 4 years ago | (#29669999)

Actually my first thought was it was the ring on the bathtub that Saturn would be able to float in.....

Re:Good thing... (5, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670079)

Until 2620, when astronomers change its name to Urectum, we're still stuck with that stupid joke.

Re:Good thing... (0)

NoYob (1630681) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670229)

Until 2620, when astronomers change its name to Urectum, we're still stuck with that stupid joke.

No, there will be more!

Satellite crashes into Urectum. "Boy, Urectum wreck'em!" or something like that.

Re:Good thing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29670707)

Urectum? You nearly killed 'em!

Re:Good thing... (1)

LizardKing (5245) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670419)

...it wasn't a giant ring around Uranus.

No, but it is a dirty ring produced by irregular grinding. Sounds like the result of a diet lacking in fibre.

Re:Good thing... (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670451)

How is the Starship Enterprise like toilet paper?
They both circle Uranus and pick up Klingons.

Seriously, though, Uranus DOES have rings. =/

Re:Good thing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29670505)

Uranus, yur-en-us.

Re:Good thing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29670789)

Except me... Don't urine me, please.

Whats funny is my initial reaction to the headline (2, Interesting)

WCMI92 (592436) | more than 4 years ago | (#29669959)

Which was... "DUH!". Galileo discovered the "huge rings around Saturn". But reading deeper this is a fascinating find, that the invisible portion of the rings are way bigger than the spectacularly visible ones.

Re:Whats funny is my initial reaction to the headl (4, Insightful)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670075)

A better headline would've been, "NASA Discovers Previously Unknown Ring Around Saturn"

Re:Whats funny is my initial reaction to the headl (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29670485)

Anything you "discover" is previously unknown, by definition. Otherwise, the headline would have said "rediscover".

You pedants, when will you learn?

Re:Whats funny is my initial reaction to the headl (0)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670615)

To rediscover is to discover again. Discovery doesn't rule out the possibility that someone discovered it already.

To be perfectly accurate, there are two possible interpretations, which present themselves to the average individual along this approximate train of thought upon reading that headline:

(A) NASA rediscovered the giant rings that I already knew about. Wait, unless NASA is filled with moronic dweebs who flunked out of high school, that can't be...

(B) NASA must have discovered another ring that they didn't already know about. Well, that makes more sense, but why didn't they just say so in the headline?

And there you have it.

Re:Whats funny is my initial reaction to the headl (1)

dotancohen (1015143) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670509)

Is anyone looking for these invisible rings in other places? Might Earth have one?

Re:Whats funny is my initial reaction to the headl (5, Funny)

imakemusic (1164993) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670601)

Is anyone looking for these invisible rings in other places?

Yes. Fools that they are.

Re:Whats funny is my initial reaction to the headl (2, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670797)

I can sell you an invisible ring that keeps invisible tigers away! I've been wearing mine for years and in all that time didn't see a single invisible tiger!

Re:Whats funny is my initial reaction to the headl (1)

mforbes (575538) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670795)

Technically I guess you could think of our equatorial-orbit artificial satellites as a ring...

Re:Whats funny is my initial reaction to the headl (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670597)

How do you discovery something if you didn't previously know it was there?

The very statemen Discovers Rings MEANS it was previously unknown.

Missed by Voyager? (3, Interesting)

IflyRC (956454) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670049)

I'm not sure I understand why something so large was missed by Voyager. I understand the difficulty of viewing something like this from Earth but those probes were right there.

Re:Missed by Voyager? (5, Informative)

irussel (78667) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670179)

Did you even read the articles?

quote:
JPL spokeswoman Whitney Clavin said the ring is very diffuse and doesn't reflect much visible light but the infrared Spitzer telescope was able to detect it.

"The particles are so far apart that if you were to stand in the ring, you wouldn't even know it," said Verbiscer.

Re:Missed by Voyager? (1)

XSpud (801834) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670427)

"The particles are so far apart that if you were to stand in the ring, you wouldn't even know it," said Verbiscer.

Or perhaps you'd be too preoccupied wondering wtf you were standing on to notice whether there was a ring.

Re:Missed by Voyager? (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670547)

Myself, I'd be kinda busy with trying to find some air, and quick. Wtf I was standing on would come in a distant second.

Re:Missed by Voyager? (4, Interesting)

buchner.johannes (1139593) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670847)

It is astonishing how little we know about the non-radiating matter in our own solar system. For example, the size of the Oort cloud is not really known.
We can see active galactic nuclei up to z=6.4 or 5.4 Gpc, but don't know the objects within 0.04 parsecs of earth yet.
The sphere is a beast.

Re:Missed by Voyager? (4, Interesting)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670235)

It's a very faint ring, more like a thin cloud. Voyager was generally not designed to study something that thin, unless perhaps they knew specifically what to look for, such as a specific wavelength. Plus, when you are "in" it, it's hard to have something to compare to know that there's a difference. You cannot rule out instrument contamination or noise when it's almost equal in all directions.

Re:Missed by Voyager? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29670259)

Diffuse objects don't get brighter per degree^2 as you approach them. If you look at one and move twice as close, its overall brightness increases by 4, but it's angular area increases by 4 too, and they cancel out. In other words Voyager just wasn't good at measuring low brightness per angular area, and if it were, it could have made the discovery from Earth.

Re:Missed by Voyager? (4, Interesting)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670327)

As others have pointed out, the issue was with luminosity, not being too small to see.

In fact, these rings are SO big that being close probably makes them even harder to see.

Consider that we know exactly what the shape of the Andromeda galaxy is, but we only have a general knowledge of the shape of our own galaxy. Or, consider that a person in a hedge maze might need an hour or two to accurately map it, but somebody flying overhead would just have to snap a photo.

On the topic of Andromeda - that galaxy is actually similar to the size of the moon in the sky (maybe bigger). However, it is too dim to see with the naked eye (maybe just a splotch in a very dark sky). A simple camera can get a decent shot of it given a long enough exposure time.

You've perked my interest (1)

Xaedalus (1192463) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670761)

Okay, I've got a decent camera. Assuming I can find a high enough viewpoint that's far away from light pollution on a clear sky, how could I get a photo of Andromeda in the night sky with my camera? And where on the net could I go to find information on how to locate it in the sky? Because that would be absolutely AMAZING to get a photo of Andromeda in the night sky.

Re:Missed by Voyager? (1)

agentgonzo (1026204) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670565)

I don't know whether this article mentions it, but the BBC article mentions that there are 10-20 particles per cubic kilometre of space. I think that's why they haven't discovered them until now

that's why (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29670085)

And that's why I bought a Saturn.

Esoteric Naming System (5, Interesting)

stressclq (881842) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670091)

Couldn't help myself, from TFA (emphasis added):

Before the discovery Saturn was known to have seven main rings named A through E and several faint unnamed rings.

What kind of a messed up numeral system do they use in NASA?

Joking aside, the ring divisions are labelled (from the closest to furthest) : D, C, B, A then F, G and finally E as the outermost ring.

Wonder what they will name this one, anyone good with sequence puzzles?

Re:Esoteric Naming System (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29670165)

probably H?

Re:Esoteric Naming System (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670203)

Joking aside, the ring divisions are labelled (from the closest to furthest) : D, C, B, A then F, G and finally E as the outermost ring.
Wonder what they will name this one, anyone good with sequence puzzles?


The next one will clearly be I.

Re:Esoteric Naming System (4, Funny)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670215)

Wonder what they will name this one, anyone good with sequence puzzles?

D#

Re:Esoteric Naming System (4, Informative)

cwiegmann24 (1476667) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670357)

I wonder if they were named in sequence (A, B, C ... ) as they were discovered, not as they lie from closest to farthest. I could understand as equipment got better, NASA was able to send spacecraft closer, etc., more rings would be identified.

Re:Esoteric Naming System (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29670417)

Named for the order in which they were discovered.

Re:Esoteric Naming System (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29670579)

I (capital i) obviously, because we're going forward in the alphabet in groups that get 1 less (4 letters, 3 letters, 2 letters) and each group is reversed. So the pattern is predictable until DCBAFGEIHJ

Wait... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29670101)

Wait a second, there's a *ring* around *Saturn*? Someone alert the media!

Interesting find (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29670107)

It sounds like it's a form of comet like trail left by a moon of Saturn. Makes you wonder if other moons leave debris trails?

Re:Interesting find (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670527)

If there's not a similar object around Jupiter, my speculation is that it's either from a recent collision, or a moon like Enceladus spouting off gas due to tidal friction. If there is a similar object around Jupiter, then I'd lean toward it being merely a result of having lots of gravity. However, Jupiter also has "spouty" moons.

Cool Dust (4, Funny)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670111)

Cool Dust? Wow, I could have used some of that in high school. This is undoubtedly part of some astronomy group's secret project to get back at the jocks.

Infrared (1, Interesting)

ichthus (72442) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670123)

So, it sounds like it shows up in the infrared. But, it must be filtered by our atmosphere, or something -- otherwise we'd be able to see it from the ground.

What a shame. It would be really cool to capture it [wired.com] with a DSLR.

Just now? (2, Funny)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670125)

NASA Discovers Giant Ring Around Saturn

They figured it out just now?

This proves it. The moon landings were fake.

Well (2, Interesting)

OrangeMonkey11 (1553753) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670131)

I don't know if you could consider this is part of the ring system around Saturn due to the fact that is start around 3.7 millions miles away from the planet and stretched out to its furthest at 7.4 millions miles; I'm not an astronomer by any means but I would consider this and asteroid belt of some sort; Saturn gravitation pulled cannot be that strong holding materials that far away.

Re:Well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29670213)

This whole idea of using distance or sizes to classify planets, rings and other things is IMHO completely stupid.

Pluto orbits the sun, hence it IS a planet, I don't care what others might say. Same thing goes for that ring, its center is Saturn, hence it IS a ring of Saturn.

Re:Well (1)

lordandmaker (960504) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670269)

The Moon orbits the sun, too.

Re:Well (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670421)

The moon orbits the earth, which happens to orbit the sun. The moon does not orbit the sun.

Lots of comets and asteroids orbit the sun, though.

Re:Well (1)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670619)

The moon orbits about the gravitational center of a system of n bodies. So does the earth, so does the sun, so does the galaxy.

Re:Well (1)

Jarjarthejedi (996957) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670675)

Orbit(v): "to move around (a heavenly body) in an orbit "
Orbit(n): "the curved path followed by something, such as a heavenly body or spacecraft, in its motion around another body"

Its path is curved, and it moves around the sun, thus the moon can be stated to be in orbit of the sun. It's not a useful definition (as truthfully the moon orbits another body which orbits the sun) but it is a true definition.

Re:Well (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670779)

By that definition, everything in the universe orbits everything else (from a relativistic point of view). As you said, not useful. To make it useful, we throw out all but the most significant gravitational influence and say the body orbits that.

Re:Well (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670433)

I can't see the moon, with no earth, going around in spirals while orbiting the sun... Unless the universe is a giant Spirograph [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Well (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670467)

This whole idea of using distance or sizes to classify planets, rings and other things is IMHO completely stupid. Pluto orbits the sun, hence it IS a planet, I don't care what others might say. Same thing goes for that ring, its center is Saturn, hence it IS a ring of Saturn [and not an asteroid belt].

It may be a mistake to get caught up in vocabulary because of the continuous ranges in possible sizes. (Pluto appears to not even be the largest Kuiper-belt object.) How big do the particles have to be to be called an "asteroid belt" or simply "lot's of small moons"? The labels we give are merely shortcuts because a fuller description, like size, count, and orbit radius histograms, would either be too long or put people to sleep. At best we could draw arbitrary lines in the sand, such as if the median size of the objects in the debris field is smaller than X, then it's a ring. Attempts to try to find "natural" boundaries often fail.

Re:Well (1)

agentgonzo (1026204) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670687)

Just because the distance is huge doesn't mean that it's not to be considered part of the Saturnian system. The ring particles orbit Saturn and at this distance, Saturn is the major gravitational source (why the orbit Saturn and not float off into a solar orbit). Fornjot (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fornjot_(moon)) orbits much further away than this ring at 24.5 million km (15 million miles) away from Saturn and is still part of the Saturnian system.

Iapetus? (3, Insightful)

pz (113803) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670193)

Is this ring the source of the dark material on Iapetus?

(Looking at the images of Iapetus, my instant reaction was that it looked exactly like objects that I've spray-painted at an oblique angle -- and by analogy the dark surface MUST be accreted material from a dust cloud.)

Re:Iapetus? (5, Informative)

agentgonzo (1026204) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670731)

Yes. The BBC article [bbc.co.uk] states that this ring is the cause of the dark matter on Iapetus. Iapetus is tidally locked to Saturn, so will always present the same side to the direction of motion in its orbit. This side is the darker side of Iapetus and it seems to fit perfectly that this is due to collisions with the particles from this ring over the eons like bugs on a cosmic windscreen.

Yeah, but (3, Interesting)

huckamania (533052) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670217)

Now that the funny is out of the way...

I would think that this kind of discovery could close the gap for some of the physics problems we are trying to solve. Could the headline have read 'Missing matter discovered around Saturn'? Supposedly we are missing 75% of the matter in the universe or some percentage.

Ice in space? I wonder what we could do with that. Maybe Mars isn't so boring after all.

Angular diameter (0)

qoncept (599709) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670221)

naked eye from Earth, it would cover a patch of sky roughly twice the angular diameter of the Moon

At first, I thought angular diameter sounded stupid (in the way saying "utilize" instead of "use" sounds stupid). I realized I didn't know what "angular diameter" meant, so I looked it up [wikipedia.org] . Turns out, not only does it sound stupid, but it's wrong. Planets are spheres. They don't get distorted by viewing angle.

Re:Angular diameter (1)

smolloy (1250188) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670447)

I think you're wrong.

The object's size subtends an angle from the point of view of an observer. This angle is (roughly) the size of the object divided by its distance from the observer.

It's a very useful way to discuss an object's apparent size in the sky, especially when you compare it to the size of a well known object like the Moon.

So, they're claiming that, if you could see this ring, it would appear to cover an area of sky roughly twice the size of the Moon. Which is surprisingly large.

Re:Angular diameter (2, Informative)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670517)

The angular diameter or apparent size of an object as seen from a given position is the âoevisual diameterâ of the object measured as an angle.

What's hard to understand about that?

It even said: It's the apparent size.

In other words, the angular size is how big something looks if you disregard how far away it is.

For instance, here is a picture of a bird silhouetted against the moon [gstatic.com] . The bird is close to the viewer (appearing large) and the moon very far away (appearing small). Although we know it's huge, the moon looks like it's nearly the same size as the bird. Their visual diameters are nearly the same.

Here's another picture of a bird silhouetted against the moon [gstatic.com] . In this one, the bird is quite far away (though nowhere near as far away as the moon), and looks small in comparison. The moon is about the same size (visual diameter) as it was in the last picture, but the visual diameter of the bird is much smaller.

Re:Angular diameter (1)

loafula (1080631) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670545)

no they aren't. they are slightly distorted due to gravitational pull from whatever they orbit.

Saturn is married (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670291)

One ring to rule them all, and in the darkness bind them.

I now pronounce you man and wife.

Re:Saturn is polygamous (2, Informative)

MRe_nl (306212) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670613)

Saturn has four main groups of rings and three fainter, narrower ring groups. These groups are separated by gaps called divisions. Close up views of Saturn's rings by the Voyager spacecrafts, which flew by them in 1980 and 1981, showed that these seven ring groups are made up of thousands of smaller rings. The exact number is not known.

The main rings are extremely thin. They stretch 70,000 kilometres from their inner to outer edge, but are only about 100 metres thick. They are made of loose ice particles in all sorts of sizes.

"They go from the size of houses down to the finest ice particles, like the snow you might ski on in Utah" says Carolyn Porco, head of Cassini's imaging team and an expert on the rings.

Voyager showed that thousands of gaps break the main rings up into ringlets that are often only a few kilometres wide. In the pictures from Cassini, it is clear that some ringlets are narrower still, maybe only half a kilometre or less.

Those pictures also show that they have very sharp edges, even though the ice particles should be bouncing off each other and blurring the edges of the rings. "It's very mysterious - they must be held sharp by some mechanism," says Porco. "In some cases it is done by moons, but with many of the edges we don't know the mechanism."

Maybe some of the questions raised by Voyager and Cassini can be answered by these new findings.

Re:Saturn is polygamous (1)

kenp2002 (545495) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670805)

bah nonsense.... 1 for the class ring, 1 for going steady, you have the engagement ring, the mother's ring, the wedding ring, and subsequent annaversaies. Hell you could be married to one person and still end up with 5 rings just starting out. Anyways we have no proof the Saturn has been divorced in the past and kept previous rings... in fact... Saturn could be "THE BLACK WIDOW!!!" Duh Dum Daa!!!

Rings in a plane (1)

NoYob (1630681) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670297)

...and its orbit is tilted 27 degrees from the planet's main ring plane,...

That's something that amazes me. Why doesn't the stuff making up the rings just orbit the planet like a cloud instead of flat rings in a plane? And now this, a ring that's in it's own plane?! Was it at one time a single object orbiting and then broke up and that's why it's on its own plane - the orbital momentum keeps it in place?

It's times like these I wish I were smart enough to be an astrophysicist!

Re:Rings in a plane (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670337)

Small moon gets smashed by asteroids, becomes ring. News at 11.

Re:Rings in a plane (1)

NoYob (1630681) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670469)

But why after a collision does all the material stay in the same plane? I would expect material to be splattered and the stuff that doesn't escape would settle into its own orbit of whatever degrees off of the original plane.

Re:Rings in a plane (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670491)

Doesn't mean the ring has the same orbit the moon had. And we can't see what escaped because it didn't became part of the ring.

Re:Rings in a plane (1)

daid303 (843777) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670393)

...and its orbit is tilted 27 degrees from the planet's main ring plane,...

That's something that amazes me. Why doesn't the stuff making up the rings just orbit the planet like a cloud instead of flat rings in a plane? And now this, a ring that's in it's own plane?! Was it at one time a single object orbiting and then broke up and that's why it's on its own plane - the orbital momentum keeps it in place?

It's times like these I wish I were smart enough to be an astrophysicist!

One of Saturn's farthest moons, Phoebe, circles within the newfound ring, and is likely the source of its material.

I think that's why.

Is it bad science day already? (5, Funny)

Minwee (522556) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670401)

Although the ring dust is very cold -- minus 316 degrees Fahrenheit -- it shines with thermal radiation.

That's -193'C or 80 K if you're an actual scientist.

The bulk of the ring material starts about 3.7 million miles from the planet and extends outward about another 7.4 million miles.

...has an inner radius of 5.9 million kilometers and extends to 17 million km.

>The newly found ring is so huge it would take 1 billion Earths to fill it

That's "so huge it would take 1.03×10^29 Volkswagens to fill it"

JPL said

JPL is a collection of buildings in California and does not speak. Perhaps the Oracle of JPL made this prophecy?

"This is one supersized ring," said one of the authors, Anne Verbiscer, an astronomer at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

Unless the McDonalds in Charlottesville have changed recently, 10^29 Volkswagens would be a 'Large'. If you want supersized rings it's going to be an extra 49 cents.

Re:Is it bad science day already? (2, Funny)

PvtVoid (1252388) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670683)

That's "so huge it would take 1.03×10^29 Volkswagens to fill it"

How many libraries of Congress is that?

Re:Is it bad science day already? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29670689)

"Although the ring dust is very cold -- minus 316 degrees Fahrenheit -- it shines with thermal radiation."

That's -193'C or 80 K if you're an actual scientist.

Scientists are trained in a variety of units and converting from one to the other. A real scientist ought to know this. What excuses your ignorance?

Re:Is it bad science day already? (1)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670833)

Hi,

The quotes come from the Yahoo page. I know this is going to come as a shock to you, but this is not part of a peer reviewed research paper where only scientists are talking to scientists. Sometimes, speakers will target their language to the audience with which they are trying to communicate. Since the audience is likely going to be folks without a scientific background, the speaker will tailor his speech accordingly.

So in this instance, a U.S. based audience will want to hear Fahrenheit. They will also user terms like "a billion earths" to give the audience an idea of size. Cubic meters simply would not work, I am afraid.

Overall, the impression that I get from your post is that you have an overinflated sense of your own mental superiority.

How do you determine edges? (2, Interesting)

Loomismeister (1589505) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670425)

If these rings are so see through and spread out how can you measure where the boundaries of it are?

I think they got this one right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29670497)

Perhaps the headline should have been "NASA Discovers Additional Giant Ring Around Saturn". For a moment there I though NASA was just slow on the uptake.

Wait a sec (1)

ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670611)

One of Saturn's farthest moons, Phoebe, circles within the newfound ring, and is likely the source of its material.

Wouldn't the moon be accreted from the ring? Why would Phoebe be shedding material? My understanding was that many rocky bodies in the solar system are formed by accretions from rings such as this, and once a sufficiently large body is formed, the ring begins to disappear as it falls onto the body or is flung out of orbit by the gravitational influence of said body. Can someone say why the articles think the process is going in reverse?

Re:Wait a sec (2, Informative)

PvtVoid (1252388) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670755)

Wouldn't the moon be accreted from the ring? Why would Phoebe be shedding material?

Impacts [scientificamerican.com] . Stuff gets kicked up from Phoebe and accreted by Iapetus:

The study's authors speculate that meteoric impacts on Phoebe's dark, heavily cratered surface liberate the particles that form the ring. That assertion might explain the anomalously two-toned surface of Iapetus, a Saturnian moon inside Phoebe's orbit. The smaller particles of the Phoebe-generated ring should migrate inward, where they would eventually be swept up by Iapetus, coating the inner moon's leading face with dark material--a prediction knocked about for decades that jibes with observation. The presence of the debris ring implies that this process is ongoing.

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