“The phenomena of nature, especially those that fall under the inspection of the astronomer, are to be viewed, not only with the usual attention to facts as they occur, but with the eye of reason and experience.” -William Herschel

We typically think of Saturn as our Solar System’s ringed world, thanks to its huge, glorious rings spanning nearly three times the diameter of the planet from tip-to-tip. But the other three gas giant worlds have their own impressive ring systems, with Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune boasting four, thirteen and five rings, respectively.

A stitching together of two 591-s exposures obtained through the clear filter of the wide angle camera from Voyager 2, showing the full ring system of Neptune with the highest sensitivity. Image credit: NASA / JPL.

A stitching together of two 591-s exposures obtained through the clear filter of the wide angle camera from Voyager 2, showing the full ring system of Neptune with the highest sensitivity. Image credit: NASA / JPL.

While Neptune and Jupiter’s rings are exclusively created and shepherded by their inner, tiny moons, Uranus has a system somewhere in between those worlds and Saturn’s, having been discovered from the ground years before the Voyager spacecraft ever arrived.

Jupiter and its rings, bands and other heat-sensitive features in the infrared. Image credit: user Trocche100 at the Italian Wikipedia.

Jupiter and its rings, bands and other heat-sensitive features in the infrared. Image credit: user Trocche100 at the Italian Wikipedia.

Go get the full story in pictures, animations and no more than 200 words on today’s Mostly Mute Monday!

Comments

  1. #1 See Noevo
    April 25, 2016

    It’s a wonder that over the course of 4 billion years the rings around Saturn didn’t manage to coalesce into one major moon. Or even get sucked into Saturn by its gravity.

  2. #2 Wow
    April 25, 2016

    Why?

  3. #3 Wow
    April 25, 2016

    “Or even get sucked into Saturn by its gravity.”

    It hasn’t been sucked into the sun by its gravity. Nor any of the planets.

    You have a VERY low bar for “Miracle”.

  4. #4 Narad
    April 26, 2016

    It’s a wonder that over the course of 4 billion years the rings around Saturn didn’t manage to coalesce into one major moon. Or even get sucked into Saturn by its gravity.

    Could you either go back to Breitbump or figure out what a mean motion resonance is?

  5. #5 Michael Kelsey
    SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
    April 26, 2016

    @See Noknowledge #1: Hooray for short-term memory loss! You must be one of those lucky people who make new friends every day, because you don’t realize that you already met them yesterday.

  6. #6 eric
    April 26, 2016

    I am also amazed that the structures remaining after the ~5 billion years our solar system has been around, are structures that would be stable for >=5 billion years. What an amazing, miraculous coincidence. Oh celestial mechanics, you trickster you!

  7. #7 See Noevo
    April 26, 2016

    To eric #6:

    “I am also amazed that the structures remaining after the ~5 billion years our solar system has been around, are structures that would be stable for >=5 billion years. What an amazing, miraculous coincidence. Oh celestial mechanics, you trickster you!”

    And what would those “celestial mechanics” be, eric?
    Do *you* know? Ethan sure doesn’t.
    For Ethan says in his Forbes piece that “It’s *thought that* these rings [of Neptune] formed by organic compounds from either colliding, destroyed moons or ejecta via the extant moons.”

    And I’m confident he’d express similar diffidence regarding Saturn’s rings.

    I don’t even know that Ethan knows why both Saturn and its rings are so bright.

    I’ve been told elsewhere that the first stars formed a mere 200 million years after the start of our universe. And how? Because tiny clumps of matter formed (somehow), were further pulled together by gravity (somehow), and voila!
    A star is born! In just 200 million years.

    But yet, in over 20 times that length of time, the dusty rings around Saturn haven’t behaved similarly.

    Do explain the “celestial mechanics, you trickster, you.”

  8. #8 See Noevo
    April 26, 2016

    Following up on #7, on the topic of science and what we think we know
    (and the “science” that’s been shown to be false and even fraudulent),
    here is an interesting article, along with some snippets from it:

    “Speaking of physics, how do things go with this hardest of all hard sciences? Better than elsewhere, it would appear…
    … And yet the flight to physics rather gives the game away, since measured any way you like—volume of papers, number of working researchers, total amount of funding—deductive, theory-building physics in the mold of Newton and Lagrange, Maxwell and Einstein, is a tiny fraction of modern science as a whole.
    In fact, it also makes up a tiny fraction of modern physics.
    Far more common is the delicate and subtle art of scouring inconceivably vast volumes of noise with advanced software and mathematical tools in search of the faintest signal of some hypothesized but never before observed phenomenon, whether an astrophysical event or the decay of a subatomic particle. This sort of work is difficult and beautiful in its own way, but it is not at all self-evident in the manner of a falling apple or an elliptical planetary orbit, and it is very sensitive to the same sorts of accidental contamination, deliberate fraud, and unconscious bias as the medical and social-scientific studies we have discussed. Two of the most vaunted physics results of the past few years—the announced discovery of both cosmic inflation and gravitational waves at the BICEP2 experiment in Antarctica, and the supposed discovery of superluminal neutrinos at the Swiss-Italian border—have now been retracted, with far less fanfare than when they were first published.

    … Now, however, science and especially science bureaucracy is a career, and one amenable to social climbing. Careers attract careerists, in Feyerabend’s words: “devoid of ideas, full of fear, intent on producing some paltry result so that they can add to the flood of inane papers that now constitutes ‘scientific progress’ in many areas.

    … the Cult of Science. The Cult is related to the phenomenon described as “scientism”; both have a tendency to treat the body of scientific knowledge as a holy book or an a-religious revelation that offers simple and decisive resolutions to deep questions.

    But it adds to this a pinch of glib frivolity and a dash of unembarrassed ignorance. Its rhetorical tics include a forced enthusiasm (a search on Twitter for the hashtag “#sciencedancing” speaks volumes) and a penchant for profanity. Here in Silicon Valley, one can scarcely go a day without seeing a t-shirt reading “Science: It works, b—es!” The hero of the recent popular movie The Martian boasts that he will “science the sh— out of” a situation.
    One of the largest groups on Facebook is titled “I f—ing love Science!” (a name which, combined with the group’s penchant for posting scarcely any actual scientific material but a lot of pictures of natural phenomena, has prompted more than one actual scientist of my acquaintance to mutter under her breath, “What you truly love is pictures”).

    … At its best, science is a human enterprise with a superhuman aim: the discovery of regularities in the order of nature, and the discerning of the consequences of those regularities. We’ve seen example after example of how the human element of this enterprise harms and damages its progress, through incompetence, fraud, selfishness, prejudice, or the simple combination of an honest oversight or slip with plain bad luck. These failings need not hobble the scientific enterprise broadly conceived, but only if scientists are hyper-aware of and endlessly vigilant about the errors of their colleagues . . . and of themselves. When cultural trends attempt to render science a sort of religion-less clericalism, scientists are apt to forget that they are made of the same crooked timber as the rest of humanity and will necessarily imperil the work that they do. The greatest friends of the Cult of Science are the worst enemies of science’s actual practice.”

    More for you friends at
    http://www.firstthings.com/article/2016/05/scientific-regress

  9. #9 dean
    April 26, 2016

    gosh, a website devoted to mythology where writers don’t like science because it contradicts what they believe.
    You really know how to scrape the bottom of the barrel sn.

  10. #10 Denier
    United States
    April 26, 2016

    @See Noevo #7

    I’ve been told elsewhere that the first stars formed a mere 200 million years after the start of our universe. And how? Because tiny clumps of matter formed (somehow), were further pulled together by gravity (somehow), and voila!
    A star is born! In just 200 million years.

    But yet, in over 20 times that length of time, the dusty rings around Saturn haven’t behaved similarly.

    Actually they did. The vast majority of stuff collapsed to form Saturn. The remaining matter in the rings that has yet to fall in to the gravitational well of Saturn is a tiny fraction.

    Stars are no different. Our star still has a tiny fraction of matter orbiting in the forms of planets, moons, an asteroid ring, a Kuiper belt, and an Oort cloud.. The first stars ever would have also had Accretion disks full of stuff in orbit around them. To become a star all they had to do was gather enough mass to begin fusion. They didn’t need to clear the surrounding space of every iota of debris.

  11. #11 Michael Kelsey
    SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
    April 26, 2016

    @eric #6, Denier #10: Please see Ethan’s very recent post from 11 April, http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2016/04/11/nasas-cassini-reveals-the-full-glory-of-saturns-rings-synopsis/ and See Noknowledge’s first comment there. He apparently can’t even remember what he himself cherry-picks to try to advance his ignorance.

    The Saturn ring system is estimated to be just a few hundred million years old. Given the extremely high number of satellites in orbit around Saturn, is is quite plausible, as the authors of the paper cited there state, that Saturn has had several ring systems over the course of the lifetime of the solar system.

  12. #12 See Noevo
    April 26, 2016

    To Michael the SLACker #11:

    What parts of IMPLICATION, MIGHT, and PERHAPS didn’t you understand?

    “Research on the mass of Saturn’s rings has important IMPLICATIONS for their age. A less massive ring would evolve faster than a ring containing more material, becoming darkened by dust from meteorites and other cosmic sources more quickly. Thus, the less massive the B ring is, the younger it MIGHT be — PERHAPS a few hundred million years instead of a few billion.”
    http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/news/cassinifeatures/feature20160202/

  13. #13 Ragtag Media
    United States
    April 26, 2016

    Is there mathematical number where gravity breaks it’s grip ?
    At what level does it happen, Fermions, Leptons, etc.. or Bosons ?
    What is the last digit that turns 0 in gravity that breaks the bond?

  14. #14 Naked Bunny with a Whip
    April 26, 2016

    Oh wow. A link to a movie. That’ll prove there’s no global warming. Guess I’ll have to revise my ideas about aliens on the moon, too, since there’s a movie about that. The truth is exposed!

  15. #15 Naked Bunny with a Whip
    April 26, 2016

    Oops. Wrong thread.

  16. #16 eric
    April 26, 2016

    SN:

    But yet, in over 20 times that length of time, the dusty rings around Saturn haven’t behaved similarly.

    Do explain the “celestial mechanics, you trickster, you.”

    I know, isn’t m/r^2 a miracle! How could those particles possibly orbit a closer lower mass body when there’s that big giant sun 19 AU away? Gosh, the math…it clearly couldn’t explain it! Neither can Deniers #10 post! Or Michaels #11! There’s only one possible explanation: Zeus!

    Did I get that right SN? Or did I get the god wrong. They’re so similar in terms of explanatory power – how is one to decide between Zeus and Yahweh when it comes to the rings of Uranus, hmmm?

  17. #17 Denier
    United States
    April 27, 2016

    @Michael Kelsey #11

    The Saturn ring system is estimated to be just a few hundred million years old. Given the extremely high number of satellites in orbit around Saturn, is is quite plausible, as the authors of the paper cited there state, that Saturn has had several ring systems over the course of the lifetime of the solar system.

    That is almost exactly what I wrote in the thread you cite, however the conventional thinking of a 5 billion year old ring system with changes in configuration could be true too. I just chimed in because SN’s seemed to be misusing the analog of star formation by ignoring the giant planet those rings were orbiting. The age of the rings is debatable, but the existence of Saturn….not so much.

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