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Saturn's Rings Formed From Large Moon Destruction

CmdrTaco posted more than 3 years ago | from the now-it's-definitely-no-moon dept.

Space 115

Matt_dk writes "The formation of Saturn's rings has been one of the classical if not eternal questions in astronomy. But one researcher has provided a provocative new theory to answer that question. Robin Canup from the Southwest Research Institute has uncovered evidence that the rings came from a large, Titan-sized moon that was destroyed as it spiraled into a young Saturn."

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that's no moon! (3, Funny)

pezpunk (205653) | more than 3 years ago | (#33824568)

sorry.

Re:that's no moon! (4, Funny)

CheshireCatCO (185193) | more than 3 years ago | (#33824614)

No, you're not.

Re:that's no moon! (4, Funny)

0racle (667029) | more than 3 years ago | (#33824620)

Well ... not any more.

Re:that's no moon! (4, Informative)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#33824872)

The rings/moon's firewalled off here, but I found a BBC article [bbc.co.uk] that's not.

I've wondered for a long time if the asteroid belt was formed by some sort of collision, and thought about writing a science fiction story about an interstellar war between Mars and the no longer existing fifth planet (story would end with Mars losing its atmosphere and Planet Five being blown to bits).

Astronomers? Is this possible, or likely? I know that's where current theory says our moon came from; a Mars sized object that collided with a young Earth.

Re:that's no moon! (1)

EdZ (755139) | more than 3 years ago | (#33824938)

There are quite a few stories based on an extra planet being shattered to form the asteroid belt. I'd mention one of my favourites here, but it would be a huge spoiler.

Re:that's no moon! (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 3 years ago | (#33825990)

James P. Hogan [baen.com] ?

Re:that's no moon! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33825392)

Interstellar war between Mars and the fictional 5th planet?

Re:that's no moon! (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#33828168)

Slip of the keyboard; I meant interplanetary war. I've been watching too much Star Trek, I guess.

Re:that's no moon! (2, Informative)

Duodecimal (938540) | more than 3 years ago | (#33825574)

It'd be a tiny itty bitty planet. All the asteroids together are only 4% of the Moon's mass. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asteroid_Belt#Formation [wikipedia.org]

Re:that's no moon! (3, Informative)

Duodecimal (938540) | more than 3 years ago | (#33825688)

I should have read the article further. It's hypothesized that the belt contained as much as an earth-mass of material. But overall, it never coalesced into a planet due to being disturbed by Jupiter's gravity.

Re:that's no moon! (1)

turbidostato (878842) | more than 3 years ago | (#33826496)

"It'd be a tiny itty bitty planet. All the asteroids together are only 4% of the Moon's mass."

Yes, but that's because they are the remainders from the planet. Only 1% of its mass was recaptured after the armaggedon, so the planet was in fact about the size of the Earth.

Re:that's no moon! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33826654)

Your statement is off by about two orders of magnitude....

Re:that's no moon! (3, Interesting)

interactive_civilian (205158) | more than 3 years ago | (#33825832)

I am not an astronomer, but it is my understanding (mainly from Carl Sagan's "Pale Blue Dot") that the asteroids are more likely leftovers from the formation of the solar system that, when caught between the gravity of the sun and tidal forces from Jupiter never got the chance to accrete into a planet. So, rather than being a destroyed planet, they are a planet that never was.

I don't know if there has been any new data to confirm or refute that hypothesis, though.

Re:that's no moon! (1)

CorSci81 (1007499) | more than 3 years ago | (#33827652)

I was an astronomer once upon a time. As far as I'm aware this is pretty much still the prevailing theory, with some caveats that Jupiter likely did not form in its present orbit, and in fact the process of clearing out mass from the asteroid belt was partially responsible for putting Jupiter in its present place.

Re:that's no moon! (1)

magarity (164372) | more than 3 years ago | (#33827718)

and thought about writing a science fiction story about an interstellar war between Mars and the no longer existing fifth planet
 
Good science fiction uses fantastic settings to explore how people interact. If you've got a good story about interesting characters and their struggles with each other and/or their societies, go ahead and write it anyway and take a little artistic license with the settings. But if your story is so dependent on the realism of Mars's relationship to the asteroid belt that you won't write it otherwise, it probably won't be any fun to read.

Re:that's no moon! (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#33828082)

If you've got a good story about interesting characters and their struggles with each other and/or their societies

Well, that's the hard part and is why you haven't had a chance to read it yet. I haven't figured out why they're at war. The easy part (to me anyway) is writing in such a fashion that it engages the reader; I've been writing stories with practically no story at all, but many folks seem to like them. Of course, the characters and their actions are based on real people so the "interesting characters and their struggles with each other" are the easy part. There are some REAL interesting people in my town; interesting to the point of unbelievability. Imgine a redneck bar in the ghetto with wifi. It's real.

I've been talked into collecting a bunch of the older ones into a book; it concerns a nerd's futile search for sex (There's an alpha version on bittorrent). It does have a happy ending!

Re:that's no moon! (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 3 years ago | (#33828032)

I've wondered for a long time if the asteroid belt was formed by some sort of collision, and thought about writing a science fiction story about an interstellar war between Mars and the no longer existing fifth planet (story would end with Mars losing its atmosphere and Planet Five being blown to bits).

No, it's the rest of Mars, blown off in the War by the planet killer. The strangely-light, oddly-small, iron-rich Mars we see today is just the core of the original planet. Search the belt for artifacts, not on Mars.

Re:that's no moon! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33828218)

It's the information age, son. You can find out if it's possible. And if it's not, you can *make* it possible.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asteroid_belt

Re:that's no moon! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33824848)

Kill yourself.

Re:that's no moon! (4, Funny)

precariousgray (1663153) | more than 3 years ago | (#33825558)

M-O-O-N, that spells rings!

Re:that's no moon! (1)

sempir (1916194) | more than 3 years ago | (#33825668)

Course there isn't...everyone knows the ring is made up of lost airline luggage!

Re:that's no moon! (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 3 years ago | (#33826430)

Does that mean that Saturn is infested with Teddy Bears?

OH NO! Are Teddy Bears just stuffed baby Wookies from Saturn? The secret space program must be earning money somehow, but what happens if the Zombie virus gets to them? We don't have enough Slim Whitman records to protect us all!

Re:that's no moon! (1)

Stormwatch (703920) | more than 3 years ago | (#33827982)

Since they're Saturn's rings: "That's no moon... it's a PlayStation!"

frist (0, Troll)

zhong-guo (1872764) | more than 3 years ago | (#33824572)

ni hao

Isnt this kinda old news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33824608)

I'm pretty sure I heard that theory proposed on some show on the Science channel pertaining to the planets and the solar system. Further, its proposed that Saturns rings will be gone in tens to hundreds of thousands of years thanks to the same force that created them in the first place: gravity.

You win again, gravity!

Re:Isnt this kinda old news? (3, Interesting)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 3 years ago | (#33824694)

The theory has been floated but this is the first time that I am aware that someone actually worked out the mechanics of it. It's not 'proof' but it's a lot better than just conjecture.

Disclaimer: I am not an astrophysicist or a planetary expert. It's possible that someone did work out the same thing in detail. If so I just haven't seen it.

Re:Isnt this kinda old news? (1)

MBaldelli (808494) | more than 3 years ago | (#33825758)

The theory has been floated but this is the first time that I am aware that someone actually worked out the mechanics of it. It's not 'proof' but it's a lot better than just conjecture.

Disclaimer: I am not an astrophysicist or a planetary expert. It's possible that someone did work out the same thing in detail. If so I just haven't seen it.

Actually this is not the first time. This similar theory had been foisted in the 70s and done so without really pretty CGI-created computer models to boot (although it was done with animations). I remember it being discussed on Nova or some similar show, as I recall watching it in Junior High School during one of those great moments were I wasn't staring at a chalkboard and listening to my rather dull science teacher droning me to sleep.

Pity that I don't remember the exact show, 'else I'd be seeing if the video was put up online.

First Post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33824612)

One more mystery, solved? Or just another example of "spin"?

Bad Headlines! No biscuits! (4, Insightful)

CheshireCatCO (185193) | more than 3 years ago | (#33824640)

This is a really interesting model and it has a nice ring to it. (And Robin is one of the best researchers I know in this area, so that adds confidence, too.) But can we not use the definite statements in the headlines? This is a model. A good model, to be sure, but just one. I've definitely seen work even recently that makes a comet origin seem plausible, so in the very least, there's a competing model that has to be answered.

Re:Bad Headlines! No biscuits! (1)

andrewbaldwin (442273) | more than 3 years ago | (#33824692)

It's only a model

They said the same thing about Camelot !

Re:Bad Headlines! No biscuits! (2, Funny)

CheshireCatCO (185193) | more than 3 years ago | (#33824756)

Yes, and t'was a silly place, as you'll recall. Best not to go there.

Re:Bad Headlines! No biscuits! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33824700)

It has a nice "ring" to it? Seriously? Be ashamed.

Re:Bad Headlines! No biscuits! (1)

CheshireCatCO (185193) | more than 3 years ago | (#33824770)

I can honestly say that I didn't even spot that pun when I wrote that. When you live with ring-puns every day, you stop noticing accidental ones, I guess.

Re:Bad Headlines! No biscuits! (1)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | more than 3 years ago | (#33827172)

I guess you hear enough of them that they just leave a ringing in your ears....

Re:Bad Headlines! No biscuits! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33827468)

I already learned this as "the most probable origin of the rings" when I was in primary school. But hey, maybe Holland was 35 years ahead in astronomy at the time...

Re:Bad Headlines! No biscuits! (2, Insightful)

Facegarden (967477) | more than 3 years ago | (#33827790)

This is a really interesting model and it has a nice ring to it. (And Robin is one of the best researchers I know in this area, so that adds confidence, too.) But can we not use the definite statements in the headlines? This is a model. A good model, to be sure, but just one. I've definitely seen work even recently that makes a comet origin seem plausible, so in the very least, there's a competing model that has to be answered.

ALL HEADLINES ARE TRUE.
-Fantasyland, USA: Today, a top researcher said some headlines might be true, under certain circumstances. This is an amazing find, as previously it was believed that all headlines were complete fabrications, as covered in our story yesterday entitled "ALL HEADLINES FALSE".

Pics or it didn't happen! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33824662)

Personally, I think the rings are 'shopped anyhow..

Obvious? (2, Insightful)

esobofh (138133) | more than 3 years ago | (#33824682)

Aren't all rings of this nature formed form orbiting debris - debris caused by collisions? The thought that Jupiter will have rings once the conflicting orbits of it's moons finally cause them to collide is not new.. it's expected and assumed that it will happen..

I don't think this is new "science".. seems obvious.

Re:Obvious? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33824754)

Jupiter already has rings.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rings_of_Jupiter [wikipedia.org]

Re:Obvious? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33825502)

@Anonymous Coward my #asshole has rings!

Re:Obvious? (1)

ichthyoboy (1167379) | more than 3 years ago | (#33827626)

You might want to get that checked...sounds serious.

Re:Obvious? (5, Informative)

Chemicles (771024) | more than 3 years ago | (#33824854)

I think the article's content is more along the lines of "this new theory explains how Saturn's rings were formed, with their particular composition, while also explaining the other nearly-pure ice moons in the vicinity". The theory in the article is a little more comprehensive than "Saturn's rings were caused by a collision" (even though the summary was lacking information and seemed to imply that... go figure).

Re:Obvious? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33825254)

It is fortunate that scientists do not simply stop thinking about or discussing problems as soon as somebody conjectures an answer.

Re:Obvious? (3, Insightful)

mea37 (1201159) | more than 3 years ago | (#33826732)

Really? Not new science because it seems obvious? Because after all, everything that seems obvoius turns out to be scientifically correct, right?

For example, to move from point A to point B, an object must move through all the points in between. Oh, except that's not true on a quantum scale.

And if you're on a train that's moving at speed X, and you walk toward the front of the train at speed Y, then you're speed is X+Y. Except if the velocities are large, that will yield a measurable error.

And a little closer to home here, we "knew" for quite some time that 9 objects were unique in the solar system. To many people this was so obvious that they won't accept it as wrong, even though we've since figured out that one of them wasn't like the others, and was more like a vast number of other objects.

What we 'know' about planets' ring systems is speculation - a suitable answer to give an elementary school student who asks, so long as you preface it with "we think that this is the explanation".

A new model is new science. It refines the hypothesis well beyond "debris caused by collisions". That it confirms, rather than refutes, the suitability of the (refined) hypothesis doesn't make it any less new.

Re:Obvious? (1)

arisvega (1414195) | more than 3 years ago | (#33827476)

Aren't all rings of this nature formed form orbiting debris - debris caused by collisions?

Possibly yes, but that is not a scientific explanation; with that attitude, everything is formed by collapsing and colliding- astrophysics' goal is also to quantify; why this kind of rings and not some other? Why not similar ones to every planet? What are the initial conditions that lead to the development of Saturn's rings?

The thought that Jupiter will have rings once the conflicting orbits of it's moons finally cause them to collide is not new.. it's expected and assumed that it will happen..

Here is a hypothesis with a counterintuitive ring to it; there are many stable orbital configurations where orbiters need not align themselves with the body that they are orbiting- in english, there is no reason for planetary rings to be exactly aligned over their host planet's equator. The fact that they do, hints strongly to the assumption that they were formed at the same time with that planet; meaning that the same clump of rotating self-gravitating mass oblated due to friction, and while collapsing partially broke up due to gravitational perturbations from outside the system. That scenario would account for the alignment and that makes it pretty hard to beat.

It all started with intrasolar trash talk... (-1, Offtopic)

sammysheep (537812) | more than 3 years ago | (#33824750)

Come get some, moon! Ooh, what now?

-Saturn

You fail It!! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33824772)

and the str1king [goat.cx]

Moon Crashed into the Earth (1)

mikes.song (830361) | more than 3 years ago | (#33824846)

I read a while ago that the same happened with the Earth's moon, or the Moon. The same side of the moon is always facing the Earth, because it bounced off of the Earth. It's also moving away from the Earth, for the same reason. The theory was the object that crashed into the Earth was about the size of Mars; that object is now the Moon.

Re:Moon Crashed into the Earth (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33824980)

You need to read more astronomy textbooks.

The same side is facing earth because earth's gravity has absorbed/slowed/negated its angular momentum.

The moon is moving closer to earth, very slowly.

Although it generally accepted that the moon is a product of a collision of a body with earth.

Re:Moon Crashed into the Earth (2, Informative)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | more than 3 years ago | (#33825030)

You need to read more astronomy textbooks.

The same side is facing earth because earth's gravity has absorbed/slowed/negated its angular momentum.

The moon is moving closer to earth, very slowly.

Although it generally accepted that the moon is a product of a collision of a body with earth.

Replying to undo my informative moderation because though correct about the tidal locking, you got the Moon's slow change in orbital distance backwards. It's slowly moving farther away from Earth.

Re:Moon Crashed into the Earth (1)

Nimey (114278) | more than 3 years ago | (#33825088)

Well, no. The moon's actually moving /away/ from Earth, slowly. In the very distant future, it'll be flung out of orbit. However, this will be long after the Sun goes nova.

Re:Moon Crashed into the Earth (2, Informative)

Burnhard (1031106) | more than 3 years ago | (#33825246)

It's about an inch a year I think. So in 1,000,000,000 years time it'll be 4,000km further away than it is now (assuming, incorrectly probably, that it's always 1" per year, i.e. that the effect doesn't get smaller as it moves away). I'm not sure how far away it has to be to be in danger of escaping orbit entirely though. I expect it's a lot, lot further than that!

Re:Moon Crashed into the Earth (2, Interesting)

CheshireCatCO (185193) | more than 3 years ago | (#33825752)

In the very distant future, it'll be flung out of orbit.

No, it won't. I'm not sure that's ever energetically possible, let along possible from an angular momentum, standpoint. The Moon will evolve away from Earth until it's around 90 Earth-radii away (it's around 62 right now) and then halt its motion when we're in the double-locked state, like Pluto and Charon. At that point, solar tides take over and slow the Earth down more (but slower) and shift the geosynchronous orbit outside of the Moon's position, at which time the Moon starts moving back toward the Earth. But this is about 50 billion years away, and...

However, this will be long after the Sun goes nova.

No, it won't. Unless our models of stellar evolution are way, way wrong, the Sun's not a candidate to explode in any way. It'll swell up and then shrink and cool into a white dwarf. It may or may not destroy Earth in the process. (Odds favor "destroy Earth", but models differ.)

Re:Moon Crashed into the Earth (1)

pclminion (145572) | more than 3 years ago | (#33827298)

No, it won't. I'm not sure that's ever energetically possible, let along possible from an angular momentum, standpoint.

If an isolated system is in a bound state, it will always be in a bound state. Something external would have to impart enough energy to accelerate the moon to escape velocity for it to ever be ejected from orbit.

Re:Moon Crashed into the Earth (1)

CheshireCatCO (185193) | more than 3 years ago | (#33827688)

No! By that logic, the Moon can't recede from the Earth at all (in spite of observations to the contrary).

There is energy in Earth's spin. I just did the math and it looks like it's enough to get the Moon unbound, actually. Not with a lot of margin for error, though. (Of course, that requires suspending or otherwise accounting for Conservation of Angular Momentum; in general, the situation is reversed and L is conserved and we are shedding energy in the form of heat from tides.)

Re:Moon Crashed into the Earth (1)

MBaldelli (808494) | more than 3 years ago | (#33825802)

Well, no. The moon's actually moving /away/ from Earth, slowly. In the very distant future, it'll be flung out of orbit. However, this will be long after the Sun goes nova.

Pity we haven't sped it along as shown here [youtube.com] . :D

Re:Moon Crashed into the Earth (4, Informative)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#33825206)

Not exactly. It was a Mars sized object, and the collision completely demolished it. For a while, the earth had a ring formed from the collision. The ring eventually coalesced to form the moon.

The collision caused the earth's rotation. Ar one time a day on earth lasted three hours. The farther the moon gets from the earth, the more the earth's rotation slows.

I wonder what the sky would have looked like then? The moon would have been HUGE, tides would have been tremendous.

Re:Moon Crashed into the Earth (4, Informative)

CheshireCatCO (185193) | more than 3 years ago | (#33825670)

The collision caused the earth's rotation. Ar one time a day on earth lasted three hours. The farther the moon gets from the earth, the more the earth's rotation slows.

I think you're confusing two things, here. The collision did almost surely affect the Earth-Moon system's total angular momentum, but the early spin rate and the gradual slowing of the Earth isn't due to the collision (except indirectly), but due to tides transferring angular momentum from Earth to the Moon.

We really don't know Earth's initial spin state since there's no way to find that in any sort of record. (At least none I can think of. It just doesn't leave much of a mark.)

Re:Moon Crashed into the Earth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33825800)

It seems like that's pretty much what he said. At least that's how I read his post before reading yours. It's possible you mis-interpreted his post. I think you are both saying the same thing.

Re:Moon Crashed into the Earth (1)

CheshireCatCO (185193) | more than 3 years ago | (#33826602)

Possible, yep. But the ordering of the statements "the collision caused Earth's rotation" followed by the tidal evolution (without noting that that's what it is) makes it sounds like the collision caused the Earth to spin fast at first, then slower. Hence my clarification.

Re:Moon Crashed into the Earth (5, Informative)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 3 years ago | (#33825284)

We always see the same side of the moon because of tidal locking [wikipedia.org] . It doesn't have anything to do with how the moon formed except in that the impact hypothesis puts the new moon close enough to the Earth that it became tidally locked fairly quickly, but that isn't unique to the impact hypothesis. In very basic terms it works like this:

1) Tides cause bulges on one or both bodies
2) The material that the bodies are made of resists that bulge so the bulge is never precisely where it it 'should' be gravitationally speaking. If the body rotates slower than it revolves the bulge will be behind, faster than it revolves and the bulge will be ahead. Let's say the bulge is ahead in this example.
3) The orbiting body (relative to the tidal bulge) is slightly more attracted to the bulge, since it is slightly closer than the rest of the planet. Since the bulge is ahead this pulls the bulge back (causing the bulging body to slow its rotational speed) and pulls the orbiting body as a whole forward (causing it to increase it's revolution speed).

In the Earth/Moon system, this has locked the moon's rotation rate to it's revolution rate. The same isn't (yet) true for the earth, if you stand on the moon you will see all sides of the Earth. However, that is very, very slowly changing. Each trip around the planet, the moon steals some of the Earth's rotational energy and turns it into orbital energy, raising the orbit of the moon a tiny bit and lengthening the day a tiny bit.

Re:Moon Crashed into the Earth (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 3 years ago | (#33828690)

Each trip around the planet, the moon steals some of the Earth's rotational energy and turns it into orbital energy, raising the orbit of the moon a tiny bit and lengthening the [earth] day a tiny bit.

Damn moon! Makes us have to update our Java clock drivers all the time. Nuke the moon!
       

Tidally Locked (1)

Petersko (564140) | more than 3 years ago | (#33826492)

"The same side of the moon is always facing the Earth, because it bounced off of the Earth."

Actually nearly all significant moons have one side always facing the bodies they orbit. It's not because of collision, it's because of tidal locking.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tidal_locking [wikipedia.org]

one researcher provided a provocative new theory (-1, Offtopic)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 3 years ago | (#33824876)

one researcher has provided a provocative new theory

So have I. My theory is that it was caused by God mooning uranus.

Wrong (5, Funny)

bperkins (12056) | more than 3 years ago | (#33824960)

God liked it, so he put a ring on it.

Re:Wrong (1)

c++0xFF (1758032) | more than 3 years ago | (#33826238)

I thought it was a symbol of Saturn's marriage to Ops [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Wrong (1)

melikamp (631205) | more than 3 years ago | (#33828206)

Saturn rings are not nearly as exciting as the rings surrounding Uranus.

ACC was right! (4, Interesting)

cvd6262 (180823) | more than 3 years ago | (#33825044)

In 2001, ACC pointed out the odd coincidence between the ring of Saturn being only 4 million years old, and the time when the Monolith appeared on Earth. Hmmmmmm.

BTW - The book has the large monolith at Saturn, not Jupiter. Kubrick was worried about the FX it would take to portray the rings on film, so they changed it to Jupiter.

Re:ACC was right! (1)

TheDarkMaster (1292526) | more than 3 years ago | (#33825336)

Very interesting coincidence. And, if some day a researcher discover that mankind has begun four million years ago, Clarke will smile above us.

Re:ACC was right! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33828186)

It was 3 myo in the book. It was changed to 4 myo for the movie.

New? (2, Interesting)

MaWeiTao (908546) | more than 3 years ago | (#33825064)

Is this really a new theory? Or is this a new interpretation of an existing theory.

I recently read 2001, finally, and I'm fairly certain Arthur C. Clarke mentions Saturn's rings having been formed due to the destruction of a moon. He's not a scientist, but I'm fairly certain he got the idea from scientific circles.

Re:New? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33825510)

No, it's not new, it's more complete. But I suppose it would be so much simpler to tell who wins the science game if people just stopped asking questions when somebody else said "FURST! LOL"

Re:New? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33825932)

He's not a scientist, but I'm fairly certain he got the idea from scientific circles.

You should probably read more about Clarke or possibly redefine your idea of what a scientist is.

Re:New? (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 3 years ago | (#33826214)

I read the theory in a child's field guide to astronomy in the early 70s. I have an old Time Life book that talks about how if the Moon ever spiraled in it might break up and form a ring.

Oh what am I doing... Wikipedia! I choose you!

Zap!

Theory first proposed by Édouard Roche in the 19th century, hence we have the "Roche limit" for moons not breaking apart.

Re:New? (3, Informative)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 3 years ago | (#33826500)

He's not a scientist, but I'm fairly certain he got the idea from scientific circles.

Actually, he is a Scientist. Has many published ideas. Geostationary satellites is one of his ideas. Just because you write Science Fiction doesn't cause them to throw you out of the guild.

Re:New? (1)

ivoras (455934) | more than 3 years ago | (#33827042)

Clarke not a scientist? Since when? He might not have had a PhD title (which is only that - a title) but other than that trivial detail he's practically a text-book model of a fine scientist. He is one of *the* role models for the job.

It's like saying Carl Sagan wasn't a scientist! In fact, Clarke and Sagan had very similar fields of interest and work.

Re:New? (1)

CorSci81 (1007499) | more than 3 years ago | (#33827822)

Tidal destruction of a moon isn't exactly a new theory to explain the rings. Previous iterations just had trouble explaining the composition of the ring material, hence comets were a more favorable model. What Robin has done here is show how you can tidally destroy a moon and get the right ring composition. I'm not entirely surprised to see this coming from her, she previously did the same with Earth's moon-forming collision.

That's no moon! (0, Redundant)

DarthVain (724186) | more than 3 years ago | (#33825128)

Well not anymore anyway... :)

Meanwhile, back on Earth (-1, Troll)

PatPending (953482) | more than 3 years ago | (#33825186)

I wish scientists would study something important, such as: What causes rings around the toilet?

Re:Meanwhile, back on Earth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33825804)

they are caused by an explosion from Uranus

Captain Future (1)

Doctor O (549663) | more than 3 years ago | (#33825244)

You guys obviously haven't been watching your documentaries. I remember well that episode from Captain Future in the 70's where they state that Saturn's rings are the result of the destruction of the Katein. This is why Captain Future travels back in time to have the people of the Katein build one of their moons into a spaceship to travel to their old holy planet.

Sheesh. Kids these days.

A long time ago in a galaxy [not] far, far away... (0, Redundant)

da007 (242994) | more than 3 years ago | (#33825304)

That *was* no moon.

memes (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 3 years ago | (#33825588)

pics or it didn't happen...

Re:better memes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33826410)

Pics of your mom being impregnated or you didn't happen.

Re:better memes (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 3 years ago | (#33826912)

Pics of your mom being impregnated or you didn't happen.

Many people have pics of that. He's for real.

This week in... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33825622)

astronomy a new hypothesis that will never be know or truly proven. This hypothesis will only be a theory in about 300 years and till then keep on guessing it makes life tolerable.

video? (4, Funny)

billmarrs (97555) | more than 3 years ago | (#33825678)

I will believe this when I see the CGI video of a moon exploding as it spirals into Saturn.

Is this what will happen to... (1)

Narishma (822073) | more than 3 years ago | (#33825920)

... one of Mars' moons? I remember reading somewhere that one of them will either crash into Mars or be disintegrated into a ring in a few million years because it's orbit is shrinking slowly as time goes on.

Moon? (0, Offtopic)

lavacano201014 (999580) | more than 3 years ago | (#33826122)

<insert another "That's no moon" comment because that's all people can think of>

Re:Moon? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33826486)

That's no meme, it's a space saver!

Re:Moon? (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 3 years ago | (#33826556)

OK, who shot first: Han Solo or the Death Star?

Wait, what was the question again? Did a slashdot article suddenly get off topic? How unusual.

Imperial Empire primary suspect (0, Redundant)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 3 years ago | (#33826234)

The Death Star was found hanging out at the scene right before the moon's destruction. Apparently, several witnesses testified that a dark-colored moon was in the area acting suspiciously. An old man was quoted as saying 'That's no moon!' but was apparently ignored. More news at 11.

Re:Imperial Empire primary suspect (1)

u17 (1730558) | more than 3 years ago | (#33828462)

But was the man manly?

yesterdays news (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33826514)

And this is news? This must have happened millions of years ago!

Moon? (1)

Hijammer (942649) | more than 3 years ago | (#33827198)

That's no Moon it is the debris of an space station from long ago.

Aren't the rings made up mostly of water ice? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33827592)

What was the moon that broke up made up of then? One great big moon sized snowball.

so could we do the same? (1)

jsepeta (412566) | more than 3 years ago | (#33828248)

it would be cooler to have a ring than a moon, but that would probably screw up the tides.

Destroyed by Gaeans (1)

kmahan (80459) | more than 3 years ago | (#33828380)

John Varley covered how the rings were created in his Gaean series of books (Titan, Wizard, Demon). The constructs would collapse moons to gather the materials they needed to form their habitats.

Titanic (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 3 years ago | (#33828600)

Titan is such an interesting moon. Too bad its possible twin is lost. It may have been even more interesting than Titan because being closer to Saturn means that it would likely have had many tidal-friction-induced volcanoes that spew water, methane, etc. Think of Io with a real atmosphere and more water. (Well, maybe Io once did have more water. It may have all been boiled away by tidal volcanoes.)

Everybody is missing the point (5, Interesting)

Xerxes314 (585536) | more than 3 years ago | (#33828630)

Well, I read all the comments so far and nobody has discussed the actual new parts of the model. The novelty is that the destroyed moon is assumed to be differentiated (The heavy metal and rock fall to the core and the light ices stay on the surface.) and Saturn was in its very early stages, when it was hot and its atmosphere greatly distended. This means that as the moon spirals in toward Saturn, its icy mantle gets stripped off by tidal forces first. That makes a vast disk of icy material from which the inner icy moons and the ring system are formed. Since the denser rocky material at the core of the moon is less affected by tidal forces, it impacts the extended atmosphere of Saturn and gets swallowed up before it has a chance to contribute to the disk. This explains the composition of the rings and moons better than previous models.

The point is not that it was a moon. There was no collision. Takeaway point if tl;dr:

The rings were formed by tidal disruption of a moon with an icy mantle and a rocky core.

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