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 ")

Humanity Star LEO Advertisement?
'Everyone has noticed those enormous advertisements...' Jules Verne, 1889.

Bigelow Prepares Inflatable Lunar Hotel
'Suddenly, hitherto unheard-of sums of money became available for investment in civilian orbital stations.' - Carl Sagan, 1985.

NASA SEXTANT First With X-Ray Nav In Space
'You need at least four beacons for an accurate fix.' - Harry Harrison, 1956.

Subsurface Martian Ice Slabs Piece Of Cake For Miners
'One shy little fellow with bloodshot eyes of old-time drillman stood up. 'I'm an ice miner,' he said.' - Robert Heinlein, 1966.

 

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

A 'Genuine Nanorobotic Production Factory'
'Microscopic machinery, smaller than ants, smaller than pins, working energetically, purposefully - constructing something...'

Neuromorphic Computer Offers Non-von Neumann Architecture
Fires faster than brain at 1/10K energy.

Evorus Your Crowd-Powered Conversational Assistant
'...the DS [Daily Schedule] was suddenly transformed into a valued confidante.'

Mealworms Food Of The Future
Get your grubs on.

Alibaba's AI May Read Better Than You
'Mike ... could accept other languages and was doing technical translating - and reading endlessly.'

Musk's Boring Flamethrower
'Skeletons in tatters. Burned by a flesh gun'

Humanity Star LEO Advertisement?
'Everyone has noticed those enormous advertisements...'

Nissan ProPILOT Slippers Are Self-Parking, Autonomous
Beyond science and fiction.

Atomristors - Atomic Memristors - Using Thin Nanomaterials
'I could almost feel those little tunnel junction neuristors working, forming their own interconnections as I operated it.'

Bigelow Prepares Inflatable Lunar Hotel
'Suddenly, hitherto unheard-of sums of money became available for investment in civilian orbital stations.'

Drunk Driver Of Tesla Claims Autopilot Was In Charge
'Mr. Garden, you are in no condition to drive.'

Medical Exoskeleton From Cyberdyne Gets FDA Approval
It's been a long road for HAL-5; I started writing about it in 2005.

Fungi-Infused Concrete Repairs Itself
'I noticed that curious mottled knots were forming, indicating where the room had been strained and healed faultily.'

Shiftwear Display Shoes
'He unlaced her shoe and glanced at its readout.'

NASA SEXTANT First With X-Ray Nav In Space
'You need at least four beacons for an accurate fix.'

GM Introduces Cruise AV With No Steering Wheel
'How about the steering wheel?' ... 'I do not need one.'

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.