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Saturn's F Ring Is Now Three Times As Wide As During the Voyager Flybys

samzenpus posted about a month ago | from the getting-bigger dept.

Space 41

KentuckyFC writes In 1980 and 1981, Voyager 1 and 2 flew past Saturn providing unprecedented images of its magnificent ring system. At that time, its most distant discrete ring, the F ring, was about 200 kilometres wide. But puzzlingly, images sent back by Cassini show that the ring is now 580 kilometres wide and twice as bright as it was thirty years ago. Now astronomers think they have finally solved the mystery of the expanding F ring. The ring is shepherded by a number of small moons, the most famous of which is Prometheus. These moons interact gravitationally with the ring creating structures such as braids and spokes. The new thinking is that the moons' orbits resonate with the F ring, pushing clouds of dust and ice further away from Saturn. This makes the ring wider. But beyond a certain radius the orbit of the dust becomes unstable and it begins to spiral back towards Saturn and collides with the rest of the ring. This causes a chain reaction of collisions that dramatically increases the number of particles in the ring and hence its brightness. This theory also leads to a prediction--the resonant process is currently at a maximum but should reduce sharply in the coming years, if the theory is correct. So by 2018, the F ring should be back to the same configuration the Voyagers saw in 80/81.

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41 comments

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Three times wider? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47799697)

But your mom is still three times wider than the F ring right now.

Not a moon (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47799705)

The ring is shepherded by a number of small moons

That's no moon, it's a space station!

That's what my GF tells me (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47799709)

And she would know.

say it out loud (0)

turkeydance (1266624) | about a month ago | (#47799711)

3rd grade cussin'. "but, Mom, it's science!"

Re:say it out loud (0)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a month ago | (#47799763)

Ironic that there's no F-ring near Uranus.

Re:say it out loud (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47799997)

Relative to distances that are relevant when talking about your mom sized objects, Saturn's F-ring is near Uranus.

Re:say it out loud (1)

S.O.B. (136083) | about a month ago | (#47802457)

But it does have an A-ring.

Man made global warming (4, Funny)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about a month ago | (#47799717)

This increase in the size of the F ring is almost certainly caused by man made global warming. If we don't stop doing everything that we do, the whole solar system is likely to come tumbling down on our heads!

Re:Man made global warming (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47799731)

What have you been smoking? It's obvious that God did it. It says so in the Book of Truth. Which was brought to us by aliens.

Re:Man made global warming (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47799781)

What an ass.

Re:Man made global warming (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47800137)

The rise in internet trolling is almost certainly caused by man made global warming. If we don't stop doing everything that we do, the whole internet is likely to come tumbling down on our heads!

Re:Man made global warming (1)

mnooning (759721) | about a month ago | (#47801021)

Poignant!

For those of you who didn't get it, it's called sarcasm. Very funny, too.

Man made global warming (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47803253)

The sad thing is I was going to post the same answer. Good Show!

Re:Man made global warming (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47803549)

Dammit! I knew I should have bought a hybrid instead of that 69 Nova.

A ring (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47799751)

I hear that after you get out of jail your A ring will be four times the size it was when you went in!

Stop Ring Change! :) (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47799765)

Stop the probes from going to the planets, they are changing the space environment , since we first started launching rockets into space the F ring has increased at an alarming rate. We must stop human space exploration in order to save the space environment, ;)

Re:Stop Ring Change! :) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47799783)

If people actually lived there maybe it would matter? In the meantime, let's try to take care of the only place in the entire universe where all the humans are, mkay? :)

Re:Stop Ring Change! :) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47801911)

"... let's try to take care of the only place in the entire universe where all the humans are, mkay?"

You have ANY evidence for this statement at all? Or are you just assuming things like every other global warming alarmist?

Re:Stop Ring Change! :) (1)

dcbrianw (1154925) | about a month ago | (#47799917)

Gad zooks! The rings are growing even faster than the polar ice caps!

Watch out for (1)

rossdee (243626) | about a month ago | (#47799799)

The Fithp are coming

Re:Watch out for (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a month ago | (#47799947)

Run for the hillth!

Re:Watch out for (1)

DamnOregonian (963763) | about a month ago | (#47802455)

Watch out for their Foot

Re:Watch out for (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about a month ago | (#47805307)

I should be safe in Eastern Aus. We could get a new inland sea out of it.

Re:Watch out for (1)

Agripa (139780) | about a month ago | (#47814969)

You've a wicked sense of humor, Darth Vader.

Fear (-1, Offtopic)

Chrisq (894406) | about a month ago | (#47799865)

Fear the coming of the cosmic goatse

Re:Fear (1)

Neil Boekend (1854906) | about a month ago | (#47800263)

Have you seen the first drawings Galileo made of Saturn? It was clearly a goatse. God grew up and decided it was immature so he made the laws of nature permit rings to cover up his bad joke.

Dear Lord, what has happened to Slashdot?! (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47799899)

As I write this, there are 12 comments to this story. They are all total crap.

Five are about enlarged bodily orifices, namely the anus and the vagina. One of them even features references to prison rape.

Three are about global warming and human-induced environment changes.

One is about religion.

Two of them just drop stupid sci-fi references.

The remaining one is really weird stupidity about 3rd grade swearing or something idiotic like that.

All of them have absolutely nothing useful to say, and most of them aren't even tangentially related to the submission and its topic.

Come on, this is unbelievable. While I've never expected particularly high standards for Slashdot and the discussion here, I think that this is a new low. In the past, a story like this would generate at least some good discussion.

I'm not an astronomer, so I don't have much to add, but I would at least like to read comments from people who may have some experience within this field. Instead, all I find here is stupidity and discussion about torn anal sphincters.

At this point, I don't know what to do. I can't stand reddit any longer, because the discussion there is even more inane than it is here. I'm tiring of Hacker News, because the only submissions there that get to the front page involve sexism or some other irrelevant social issue, rather than stuff relating to science, technology, and even business. Lobsters is totalitarian groupthink enforced by their invitation-only signup policy. SoylentNews isn't bad, but there isn't much discussion.

Where can somebody go to find tolerable discussion about science, math, and technology?

Re:Dear Lord, what has happened to Slashdot?! (2)

jitterman (987991) | about a month ago | (#47800069)

Entirely disagree:

While I've never expected particularly high standards for Slashdot and the discussion here,

Entirely agree:

I think that this is a new low.

When I became a member ten years or so ago, and was a lurker for a few years before that, the jokes were always there, but mixed into an often in-depth discussion of math, science, programming, etc. I don't read or post as often as I used to (I was never a major contributor, and the few 5s I've ever gotten were for funny comments rather than for anything important) myself. Perhaps older users are simply moving on (only two of the comments are 6-digit UIDs, the others are either 7s or ACs), or maybe no one's had their coffee yet. Also, today is a holiday in the US (come on, rest of the world, talk about Saturn!!). There are still good discussions, but yes, this particular set of early postings is disappointing.

Re:Dear Lord, what has happened to Slashdot?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47800071)

http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the... [ucsd.edu]

But if you're the typical geek who likes to say they're all about math and science, you won't like it since it peels apart all the pro-space nuttery to show that no one is going anywhere. Ever.

Re:Dear Lord, what has happened to Slashdot?! (1)

MRe_nl (306212) | about a month ago | (#47800087)

http://web.mit.edu/ [mit.edu]
On a more serious note, although I agree with the sentiment of your comment, the first twelve monkeys to hit the typewriter won't always be the best informed. Sometimes it can take hours before someone with practical knowledge of the subject at hand chimes in. Added to that that moderation may take some time too there's always going to be crud before pearls. You can find more information on specialist websites, but there is often no discussion due the low visitor numbers on those sites or even no possibility to leave comments at all.

Re:Dear Lord, what has happened to Slashdot?! (2)

mrbester (200927) | about a month ago | (#47800365)

The fact that you recognised both sci-fi references is also of note.

I find that the more we learn about Saturn's rings (and is thus applicable to all planets with rings and shepherd moons) the greater the fascination that such structures aren't just a bunch of small rocks orbiting a planet but have behaviour that is of interest to chaos and complexity mathematicians that can only lead to greater understanding of the dynamics of such systems.

(Is this the kind of comment you were hoping for?)

Re:Dear Lord, what has happened to Slashdot?! (1)

x_t0ken_407 (2716535) | about a month ago | (#47801447)

Well...it IS labor day. Point being that those who aren't out just to troll, and more likely to bring substance to the discussions are probably out enjoying their holiday.

Re:Dear Lord, what has happened to Slashdot?! (1)

TheDarkMaster (1292526) | about a month ago | (#47801471)

Well, some comments are funny and welcome. The problem lies in the fact that now is so easy to use a computer that the the football captains and the cheerleaders are appearing on Slashdot to comment (why, I really do not know), but without the necessary capacity and cultural baggage to comment something useful or interesting.

But that said, it is important that you (and I, others, etc.) be tolerant, because though some are obviously stupid comments (like those involving bodily functions) others may not be stupid, being only slightly below what you (and me) think is good.

Dear Lord, what has happened to Slashdot?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47802771)

Try the slashcott sites -- soylentnews and pipedot .

Re:Dear Lord, what has happened to Slashdot?! (2)

danceswithtrees (968154) | about a month ago | (#47803093)

Jame's Clerk Maxwell (yes, the same one with the equations) figured out that the ring's of saturn must be made up of small particles. He came to this conclusion because a solid ring would have an unstable orbit and any disturbance would cause it to crash into Saturn. A fluid ring would form blobs and waves. Since neither of these happened, Maxwell concluded that the rings must be made up of small particles in orbit around Saturn. Bonus, he figured this out in 1856!

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

Sort of amazing what the human mind is capable of. On the other hand, we have the kind that make the comments seen above.

Frist post (that has anything relevant)

Re:Dear Lord, what has happened to Slashdot?! (1)

umafuckit (2980809) | about a month ago | (#47804749)

If you want to discuss astronomy, go to CloudyNights.com. It's got more of a practical, amateur-astronomy, bent to it, but some of the guys there are very knowledgeable. You have to seek them out in the appropriate sub-forum, though.

do7l (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47801127)

or chair, return A GAY NIIGER to fight what has flaws in the BSD Best. Individuals

TWO times wider, three times the previous size (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47810935)

Surely it is TWO times wider, but three times the previous size...
Assuming 200km previously and around 600km now.

Re: TWO times wider, three times the previous size (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47810971)

Apologies. The article is correct "three times as wide") but the first post had wording "Three times wider".

Living laboratory? (1)

BranMan (29917) | about a month ago | (#47811793)

This is a really interesting finding. So far as I know, even a lowly 3 body gravitational interaction cannot be exactly predicted. I'm wondering though - if enough high quality observations of the F-ring can be gathered over a period of years, is it possible to use them as a life-sized demonstration of the N-body gravitational solution? And could we curve-fit or otherwise reverse-engineer the paths of specific particles (or groups of them) to come up with (at least) better approximations for such N-body interactions?

Now THAT would really be something.

Re:Living laboratory? (1)

Agripa (139780) | about a month ago | (#47814973)

There is no general N-body solution but it may still be calculated numerically.

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