Like the fist of an angry god

By Phil Plait | August 9, 2009 7:20 am

Deep in the outer realms of our solar system, well over a billion kilometers away, something bizarre happened at Saturn’s F ring.

I mean, seriously: what the hell happened here?

Cassini image of something punching through Saturn’s F ring

This is one of the latest pictures returned from the remarkable human achievement that is the Cassini spacecraft, a probe the size of a school bus that has been orbiting the ringed planet since 2004. It’s returned one incredible picture after another, and lately — as Saturn’s orbit has brought it to a point where the rings are nearly edge-on to the Sun — things have gotten not only spectacular but also really weird.

The rings are incredibly thin, only a few meters in thickness despite being hundreds of thousands of kilometers across. Over the past few months, as the Sun shines almost straight into the rings (instead of down on them), every bump and irregularity sticks out like, well, like a tree in the desert. Weird gravitational effects from Saturn’s fleet of moons tune and resonate the countless particles making up the rings, creating beautiful waves and ripples.

But this, this is something new.

Zoom of Cassini image of something punching through Saturn’s F ring

It’s not exactly clear what’s going on here, even in this slightly zoomed shot. But it looks for all the world – or worlds — like some small object on an inclined orbit has punched through Saturn’s narrow F ring, bursting out from underneath, and dragging behind it a wake of particles from the rings. The upward-angled structure is definitely real, as witnessed by the shadow it’s casting on the ring material to the lower left. And what’s with the bright patch right where this object seems to have slammed in the rings? Did it shatter millions of icy particles, revealing their shinier interior material, making them brighter? Clearly, something awesome and amazing happened here.

My first inclination (haha! Inclination! As always, I slay me) is to say that there isn’t enough material in the rings to create what amounts to a hydrodynamic wake behind a moving object. When you move through air you leave a wake behind you, but there are gazillions of particles per cubic centimeter in the Earth’s air at sea level. I would think that even in Saturn’s ring, the density of particles wouldn’t be enough to support a phenomenon like this.

But apparently, I’m wrong. Without doing a full-blown hydrodynamic calculation it’s hard to say what’s possible and what isn’t. Cassini scientists are currently doing just that, in order to better understand what this odd image is trying to tell us.

And I have to wonder: is this a common occurrence? Is this object on an orbit that intersects the rings so that it plunges up through them and then again down into them every time it circles Saturn? If so, how does that affect the rings overall, especially over millions of years?

Or was this a singular event, some small object whose orbit was affected by a nearby massive moon, changing its path, putting it on a collision course with Saturn’s mighty and vast ring system? That seems awfully unlikely…

… but when it comes to this weird, weird place, I’ve learned my intuition is monumentally inadequate. Nature, it turns out, has a far greater imagination than any mere human. We are fated, I think, to watch Nature unfold before us and try to figure it out after the fact.

But oh, isn’t that the joy of science?

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, NASA

Comments (237)

Links to this Post

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  1. andy

    Seems to be the time for news about stellar objects punching their way through matter orbiting other objects… we just had the case of a binary system where the secondary star disrupts the circumstellar disc around a B[e] star, now this.

  2. Gary Ansorge

    Dr. Leary, many decades ago, posited that lsd increased imaginative thinking by raising the noise level in the brain, which I guess is another way of saying, it increased chaotic activity in the brain, so I guess we can really say, Nature has a more chaotic imagination than we poor, structured mortals.

    On the other hand, we have ample evidence that too much chaotic thinking leads to things like anti-vaxers and other conspiracy theorists. Lots of imagination but no checks and balances.

    ,,,but that is one very interesting picture. I wonder how big/massive such an object would have to be to have such an effect? Perhaps an errant comet?

    Gary 7

  3. Gary Ansorge

    Looked at the 1.3 Meg image. Only 3 miles per pixel. Dang, how much closer would the camera have to be to get that down to 3 METERS/pixel?(Wishful fulfillment, here).

    Gary 7

  4. vger

    It’s the monolith’s twin…

  5. It’s the wake from a Saturnian space probe. The native Saturnians are all packing up and leaving because there are too many camera-snapping tourists around these days.

  6. FenrirKar

    Frank Poole maybe?

  7. NewEnglandBob

    Don’t you see what that is?

    Its the outpouring of Bertrand Russell’s celestial teapot! It moved to a new orbit.

    Someone did a poor job mixing the sugar.

  8. Bigfoot

    This bears a stunning resemblance to the chevron in the NASA logo. Has anyone examined Cassini from the outside to see if it is still affixed?

  9. Bigfoot

    I just hope this doesn’t get Wil Wheaton in trouble at Starfleet Academy again!

  10. Sili

    I’m glad we got the Equinox mission. I hope they get the funding for the last extension too.

    Gary, I think part of the plan for the final phase of the mission involves sending Cassini through the rings themselves a coupla times before plunging it into Saturn.

  11. Dr Plait, would a wide field of view telescope like the Space Surveillance Telescope being built to track man-made debris be a useful tool for detecting near earth objects (or earth orbit crossing objects)? Or is the resolution sacrificed too much for a wide field of view? I am interested in the optics and science that would be required for this.

    I only ask because of the recent spate of events MAY get people on THIS planet more concerned about any possible event like chapter one of your excellent book.

  12. Chas, PE SE

    The thingie (scientific term, there) also appears to be punching through a bright band of ring material, with turbunce effects up-and-downstream. Which came first?

  13. Never mind Poky Object; why, exactly are the rings so very, very thin? More precisely, why isn’t lots of this material actually oscillating as it moves around saturn or otherwise being perturbed and creating more of a fuzzy cloud than a razor-thin ring?

  14. My money (snort!) would go on the object being in a fairly stable orbit around the planet. Telling clues, in my, oh so humble, opinion, the “braid” in the ring structure fore and aft of the object in question. Check out the left side of the larger image, about a sixth of the way in, and the right side, about a third of the way from the edge. Whatever is mucking up the ring in the middle was already warping the nice, neat ring, perhaps as the object grew nearer the plane of the rings as it moved through its slightly inclined orbit.

  15. The Universe is not only weirder than we imagine, it is weirder than we can imagine.
    J.B.S. Haldane.

  16. I just wanted to point out that one never hears about, for example, the *ankle* of an angry god, does one? Or the shoulder blade. I just imagine a deity comprised entirely of fists.

  17. So… Anyone care to guess how long it will take until some nutter decides that this is a proof of the Lucifer Project somehow?

  18. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Fist? No, more likely evidence of Thor’s hammer being thrown around.

    why, exactly are the rings so very, very thin?

    I’ve been asking myself the same thing. But maybe we are looking at the answer: if there is enough material to create hydrodynamic effects by way of collisions, wouldn’t it relax any disturbances to spread the rings thin at the equator? Ie the thin poke patch drawn out like that implies a thin ring “membrane”.

    What say the experts?

  19. SirButcher

    Hu, I have a pretty (well, really wierd idea) but its really like a spaceship zooming throught the rings. Maybe aliens chechking out them? :)

  20. amphiox

    Gary 7, #2:

    It’s a two step process, isn’t it? The creative generation of ideas, followed by the rigorous filtering out of the bad ones, checked against reality.

    Each step alone leads nowhere useful. You’ve got to have both.

  21. LuneOwl

    This is such a great opportunity to see if the rings repair themselves or not and how long it’ll take if they do. I love it when the Universe does our experiments for us!

  22. Phil: I’d hesitate to call the calculations “hydrodynamic”. Ring simulations are particle-based (at least most of them are) N-body runs. For the F ring, I think that they generally do cøllisionless models (unless I’m mis-remembering/mis-interpreting), so it’s very not a fluid.

    In principle, you could use a hydrocode to simulate the rings at microscales, but you’d need to be very careful with the pressure tensors to capture the way collisions affect the dynamics.

    Torbjörn Larsson: What you said is generally true; collisions flatten the rings. The F ring, being less collision-dominated is less thin, though. I wouldn’t call it a “membrane”, given it’s dimensions.

  23. One ring to confund them all…

  24. J Earley

    So, Dr. Plait, nice Larry Niven reference here.

    Anyway, the rings are thin due to collisions between the particles canceling out the ‘z’ component of their velocities, but the x and y components don’t cancel out. If you have a high enough density of particles, without a large mass source to continually perturb the disk, you get a flat disk. Saturn’s rings are slightly perturbed by the moons, but not much.
    Dr. Plait is right- the rings are incredibly thin, compared to their diameter. Consider a city sized sheet of Mylar plastic film and you get the idea.

  25. JohnW

    I can’t believe I’m the first to point out this is obviously the Fithp invasion ship!

    But seriously, doesn’t the bright streak seem to curve upwards towards the end?

  26. Nomen Publicus

    Once (Jupiter) is happenstance.
    Twice (Venus) is coincidence.
    The third time (Saturn) it’s enemy action.

  27. Will Hughes

    My guess is that the particles in the ring are self-shadowing to an extent, and pushing a bunch up out of the ring-plane causes them to catch and deflect more light hence they appear brighter.

    The reason it’s might brighter than the rest of the ‘streak’ could be a combination of breadth (and thus catching more light) and optical effects in the camera (same reason bright lights blow out on your photos if the exposure isn’t set right)

    Time for a little experimentation at home:
    Grab a piece of paper and a torch. Punch a small hole through the paper with a pencil, so that some of the paper is angled out of the paper ‘plane’.

    With the paper angled edge-on to the torch’s beam – the area where the paper deforms and angles up should appear to be brighter to someone observing from a different angle.

    It’s not a great experiement, but it demonstrates the basic mechanics that I believe are in play.

    I’m just going based on a bunch of assumptions and wild guesses here, based on experience with photography.

  28. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Intuition is, after all, based on previous experience. (And as “common sense” a dubious help to understand actual physics, which we don’t experience first hand much.)

    Dr. Leary, many decades ago, posited that lsd increased imaginative thinking by raising the noise level in the brain,

    I’m leary [Urban Dictionary; sic] of attributing neurological effects to noise, ever since I’ve seen “electric mind” theories. Where not characterized nor observed nor easily contrived “electric noise” is supposed to bring forth the emergence of a mind, despite all the evidence that already the signals all by themselves does that. For example, symbolic thinking can emerge from neuron net models of the precortex.

    More specifically, neurons transmit large scale, compared to their noise, traveling ion potential signals despite coexistence with the noise of ion channels spontaneously opening and closing all the time. Seems the systems signals are robust to their noise mechanism.

    Btw, about noise, last week I learned about 2003 research on a then newfound signal mode in brains (besides local oscillators, waves et cetera). They could show that the cortex, or more precisely actual slices of mouse brains, displays “avalanche” patterns on all scales. Short-term correlated signals, from minutely dispersed throughout a network to engaging the whole of it.

    This is symptomatic of self-organized criticality close to chaos. The rationality can be that a signal, say initially engaging a neuron only on average will engage a neuron throughout. Ie maximizing signal analysis, as measured by mutual information. [As Discover puts comments with link on a queue, please google this if interested.]

    So while I don’t think the typical mammal brain depends on noise much, it seems it has evolved to an emergent flirt with chaos. Yes, they mentioned possible transitions to full blown epilepsy, of course. [Note: Also gap to insert speculations of mystical LSD action here. :-D]

  29. gruebait

    [offtopic]
    Phil, I finally have to ask. Did you also have a 45 of “St. George and the Dragonet” by Stan Freberg?

    Dragon: “You slay me.”

    St.George/Sgt.Friday: “That’s what I’m here to talk to you about.”

  30. shannypez

    When can we expect somone to take this photo and exclaim: ” Life on Saturn!”

  31. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    John Weiss, J Early, thanks for the information!

    I wouldn’t call it a “membrane”, given it’s dimensions.

    Here I suspect you mean that surface tension et cetera wouldn’t give an actual membrane that thin in any comparable system with membranes we know of.

    My _totally_ bad, trying to evoke an analogy based on, apparently problematic at that, use of hydrodynamics.

  32. csrster

    Could it have been caused by two snowballs in the ring undergoing a glancing collision with each other? But would they have enough relative speed to cause something like this?

  33. Jason

    shannypez Says:
    August 9th, 2009 at 10:15 am

    When can we expect somone to take this photo and exclaim: ” Life on Saturn!”

    ============================================

    Right… about… LIFE ON SATURN!!!!

  34. The wackaloon brigades are no doubt twisting on their tinfoil helmets and conferring with their leader, Richard Hoagland about how to completely torture this natural phenomenon onto something sinister.

  35. Gary Ansorge

    28. Torbjörn Larsson, OM:

    “self-organized criticality close to chaos”.

    Wow! What a cool observation. Which is kinda/sorta what Dr. Tim was talking about. I also recall a reference to Prof. Hawking, in which he suggested that consciousness would ultimately prove to be a quantum level phenomena(and having a little experience with psychedelic inspired mystical experience, all I can say is WOOT!)

    How many systems “self-organized criticality,etc” do we know of, other than our neural net?

    It appears to me that the Saturnian rings are are very close to thermodynamic equilibrium, as in, their energy dynamics seem close to as low as they can go. (not sure I’m expressing that right. Oh well)

    Chaotic systems fascinate me. Out of a totally chaotic system we can get really cool patterns forming,,,like us and the rings of Saturn.

    Gary 7

  36. My bad. I just wanted to touch the rings and see what they felt like – but they smeared. And the more I tried to put them back the more they blurred into a highly reflective snowball. Sorry. There is no cosmic undo feature so I decided to just leave it like this and do no more harm.

  37. The wackaloon brigades…

    Well, actually, that bright streak does look a little bent…sort of chevron shaped, or…triangular, or…like a giant UFO mothership! Filled with “Greys”! Oh dear god-in-a-cracker, help us! They’ve finally come! And they know about the alien autopsy/desecration at Roswell! We’re dooooooomed!

    And judging by the obvious speed and angular velocity factored against the orbital nematodes of the gravitational field coordinates, it looks like the ship will arrive…in 2012!!!

  38. Torbjörn Larsson, OM Says:

    No, I mean there’s no membrane. Surface tension requires self-adhesion. There’s self-gravity, but it’s fairly weak. If you took a hammer and whacked one particle up out of the plane, the others wouldn’t follow it.

    The F ring is around 40 km thick, as I recall, so it’s not membrane-like at all. It’s somewhere between a flat ring and a torus.

    (And apologize for the “it’s” in the earlier post. I blame the heat.)

  39. Could the object just be incredibly dense and dragging the others along with its gravity?

  40. DeCay

    2 kuhnigget:

    Not funny…

  41. I notice in the latest Cassini raw images that the rings are getting extremely dark – are the ring particles starting to eclipse each other? If so, some greater brain than I ought to be able to estimate the ratio of particle size to separation… sort of like how you can see through the gaps in a picket fence when perpendicular to it, but at lower angles the pickets overlap each other.

  42. Mark

    It’s a rock. You can stop hyperventilating now. No, you aren’t going to win any writing awards.

  43. Gary Ansorge

    So, how many pixels does that “smear” represent?

    Just wondering, since the resolution was stated as 3 miles/pixel.

    GAry 7

  44. Gary Ansorge

    38. kuhnigget

    “looks like the ship will arrive…in 2012!!!”

    Boy, they must technologically antique. We can cover that distance in that time and all we have are simple ion engines.

    “Hey, Bubba, load up da shotgun. We gots some Grey meat walking around in the back 40.”

    Gary 7

  45. Jeff

    @the BA: “And I have to wonder: is this a common occurrence? Is this object on an orbit that intersects the rings so that it plunges up through them and then again down into them every time it circles Saturn? If so, how does that affect the rings overall, especially over millions of years?
    Or was this a singular event, some small object whose orbit was affected by a nearby massive moon, changing its path, putting it on a collision course with Saturn’s mighty and vast ring system? That seems awfully unlikely…”

    My vote would go for the singular event, because of the eccentricity of the orbit (high). Usually that means an object coming in from elsewhere in the solar system (random orbit) and it probably just an object that was perturbed into this trajectory (almost perpendicular to the tangent to the ring arc). Plus the drag created by rings would have slowed it down quickly into a more circular orbit around Saturn if it was a body in an orbit around Saturn. So this one probably just zipped in and out and now is nowhere near Saturn.

  46. Anon

    “When can we expect somone to take this photo and exclaim: ” Life on Saturn!””

    Maybe not Saturn… but Titan for sure!

  47. Steve

    Phil, I’m having trouble getting a sense of scale here. Do we know how tall this is from the shadow it’s casting or from other features? How wide is it? Are we talking 10’s or 100’s or kilometers or is the scale in meters?

  48. Charlie
  49. Baltar

    Pareidolius wrote:
    >The wackaloon brigades are no doubt twisting on their tinfoil helmets and conferring with their leader, Richard Hoagland about how to completely torture this natural phenomenon onto something sinister.

    The Wackaloon Brigade is always looking for a few good men, women, or stranded aliens in humanoid form to help with our educational efforts and fund-raising campaigns. Contact our recruiting office in your local town or apply online at http://wackaloonbrigade.taleo.net

    BTW, we resent that tinfoil stereotype. We are modern, and use a combination of Kevlar AND tinfoil. Covered with a waterproof fabric available in several designer colors, of course.

    Oh, and Xenu eats quiche. The real One True God kicked his @$$!

  50. wormhole

    “Like the fist of an angry god”

    much more like the finger of a curious child,
    mmm…black spots on jupiter and a white spot on venus
    now this!
    whats next giant sandcastles on mars,
    the moon covered in strawberry jam smeared handprints.
    terrifying…. excuse me while i go hide under the bed.

  51. Joe

    @FenrirKar:

    Frank Poole. I loled. :)

  52. Lloyd Warren Ravlin III

    If the Cassini has been orbiting since 2004, we must assume that this is an event that might take place at least every five or six years. Or that the Cassini has secretly been ordered to bounce golf balls off Saturn’s rings to understand ring structure and interaction.

  53. Scott

    What angle is the impact with regards to the solar plane/rings inclination?

  54. Lawyer

    Great post Phil! What an awesome coincidence … I was just talking about something puncturing the rings in the shape of PI in a post about a month ago on this blog (even nothing is actually being punctured).

    I think it looks like the Sliver Surfer’s board. Now, I really think we should ask the question… Where has the Sliver Surfer gone and will getting Jessica Alba to talk to him help prevent the fabled “2012” destruction event? LOL!

    Thanks for commenter’s most excellent insight. Questions to whomever from quick skim of Saturn and Jupiter on Wiki:

    Is is possible that the anomaly (surf board, whatever) is caused by the magnetosphere (like the so-called “spokes” of Saturn)? Would it not appear more probable that the source of the anomaly from the rings themselves accumulating from some effect of the magnetosphere/gravitation rather than some foreign body?

    Could Jupiter’s massive magnetosphere cause it?

    If something happens on Uranus (after the Jupiter smack a month ago, and this Saturn event), can we call it officially weird that this many events would happen so close together in time on the Gas giants?

  55. Graeme Outerbridge

    It was the space ship stupid^^

  56. This shape is the opposite of what an “exit wound” should look like if something punched through. I’m betting on some kind of re-organization of material owing to a local anomoly other than an ‘impact.’ A piece of cosmic duct tape got stuck in there or somethign.

  57. Richard Hubbard

    It’s the invasion ship of a race of intelligent, two trunked elephants!
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Footfall

  58. Gerry

    Dang… that gravitron drive always gives away the location of the approaching ships.

    Fuel Survey Overlord to Leader, the locals are preparing for your arrival!!!!

  59. Andrew

    How long ’til the woo-woos say it was aliens? Quick, someone jump on Richard Hoagland!

  60. Hydrodynamic – no. There is no fluid there. That leaves
    Gravitational and / or Electromagnetic, or kinetic.

    To set the scale, the F ring is order 200 km across, so that feature may be 50 km long and stick up out of the ring plane by a similar amount. I doubt it’s a solid structure, as I think that that would cause observable perturbations in the F-ring, which don’t seem to be there.

    It could be impact, not as a wake, but as scattering by the impacting body. Suppose that a passing meteor hit a ring particle hard enough to break it up. In that case, much of the impact debris should have orbital velocities (as seen from a ring plane reference frame) that were in the direction of motion of the impacting body. The relative velocity would be 10’s of km per second (probably) so these might also be 10’s of km / second. If there happened to be a picture taken within 5 seconds or so of the impact, you might get a image like this. If this model is correct, then the feature will never be seen again. (I don’t know the exposure time of this image, but as long as it is less than 5 seconds or so, it shouldn’t matter much.)

    I hope Cassini spends the time to look for this a second time. The most important question to answer is, simply, is it still there ? If this is caused by an out of the equatorial plane moonlet, it will pass in and out of the plane twice per orbit, which should be easy to observe. If it is quasi-static, then I would bet on something electrostatic or magnetostatic. If it is never seen again, then it is probably impact related.

  61. NeeAnderTall

    The mounting evidence of impacts and collisions around our solar system is a harbinger of doom for our world. We are just begining to observe the vanguard of an inter-galactic sized meteor storm which was sent outward from the Andromeda Galaxy during it’s creation. Our galaxies are on a collison course.

  62. bigjohn756

    Phil, we all know when you are trying to be funny. Please, don’t tell us every damn time!

  63. Mark Lewis

    John Weiss: Just because you and Jeff Cuzzi don’t put collisions into your F ring simulations don’t mean that is true for all simulations. The core of the F ring is collisional. Most of the surrounding material is dusty and generally collisionless. For that reason you see the signature of streamline shear through after Prometheus goes by. However, the core has a high enough density to have a lot of collisions. See Lewis and Stewart (2005) for collsional simulations with just Prometheus. These days we have gone to global simulations with Prometheus and Pandora plus 50 million ring particles. Collisions are included, self-gravity isn’t, but will be turned on later after the transient initial conditions have faded.

  64. Dave Bowman

    Something’s going to happen.
    Something wonderful.

  65. walt disney

    it’s definitely WALL-E playing with those rings again.

  66. Rogerdr

    My guess at the ‘trail’ of particles is not to think hydrodynamic, but rather electrostatic. Relatively large objects in singular orbits will be getting a constant dose of Saturn’s radiation, while particles in the rings will presumably be more affected by hitting or rubbing against one another. A chance encounter between such an object and a ring should show some kind of electrical interaction, although I’m far out of my depth to say how powerful this would be or what form it would take. I would say that it makes more sense than hydrodynamic turbulence, however.

  67. Phil,

    Let me ask a real stupid question: is the impact angle of this “thing”, the same as the impact angle of the other “thing” that hit Jupiter on July 20th ? Since we don’t know exactly the angle of the Jupiter thing, is the cone of impact of the Jupiter “thing” consistent with that of the Saturn “thing” ?

    Igor.

  68. syrtis: Yes, the rings are getting darker. (Well, for another day and a half, anyway.) But you can’t infer particle size from that. The particles are spherical and their separation is almost certainly less than the scale over which their umbrae go away. (They’d have to be separated by more than 2000 times their sizes to do that. We know that that can’t be the case because there are too many particles in a given patch.) In part, the darekening is due to less light being intercepted by the rings. (Same as the seasons, in fact.) Partly, there’s also an effect of the long paths a light beam needs to follow to get into and out of the rings.

    Lawyer: I wouldn’t be on the magnetosphere. There seems to be a lot of material there to cast a shadow and it’s difficult for magnetic fields to do that much work on a macroscopic object.

  69. brad

    Looks like the F ring is giving us the finger

  70. Jaybee

    has nothing to do with god or a fist. not even hypothetically. (becouse it is far more amazing than that) requires title change.

  71. Trevor Farrell

    It’s not the FIST of God, it’s actually His FINGER pointing at something else He wanted us to see. We, being so primitive, were so amazed by the finger we did not look to see what it was He was pointing to. Well, I guess we failed this time around, next test scheduled for…

  72. What if a rocky comet hit a large, icy ring particle, shattering it and melting it. The water might come off ‘slowly’ like water falling off a whale as it breaches. There’s little gravity to bring the water back to the rings but there is inertia that might make it slip off the comet. The icy plume may be what we see.

  73. > why, exactly are the rings so very, very thin?

    Frame dragging.

  74. Can’t help noticing that this is near what appears to be a gap in the rings. Is it possible that this is being caused by a shepherd moonlet that’s been pulled out of the plane of the rings?

  75. Probably not, Tree Lobsters. The two known shepherd moons are much larger (and orbit exterior to the F ring). I’m pretty sure (he says, without actually checking) that any moon able to open up that gap would have been seen by now. I don’t think that that’s a gap, but rather part of the F ring spiral. In that case, the placement of feature is likely coincidental to that radial location of the spiral arms.

  76. Mark Lewis:
    You’ll note that I never said that no one does collisional models of the F ring, so please don’t take personal umbrage. (It was, in fact, due to your particular models that I didn’t say that.) And as you should well know, I have never done a model of the F ring and I can’t recall Jeff doing so recently, either. So I’m not sure why you’re pointing fingers at me or at him. Please don’t think you have to defend your work here.

    I will note, however, that I’ve seen many models of the F ring done by another group which I *believe* are collisionless and *do* manage to reproduce most of the behaviors of the F ring without the particle-particle collisions. Hence my statement.

    In any event, I know for a fact that your models are *not* hydrodynamic, either.

  77. Gavin Flower

    Not sure the best way to contact Phil Directly, but I came across an interesting article that linked to a paper saying that the speed of light is changes over time:

    http://kea-monad.blogspot.com
    Changing Light Speed
    Thanks to Carl Brannen for pointing out a new paper by Sanejouand, Empirical evidences in favor of a varying speed of light. The paper summarises results from lunar laser ranging, the Pioneer anomaly, supernovae redshifts and the known fixed constants, namely fine structure and Rydberg. He finds that the varying speed of light hypothesis is (a) consistent with all these results and (b) explains the results that the Dark Force cannot.
    […]

  78. Does Cassini have images in wavelengths other than the visible? That would give added clues, no?

  79. Rich

    Relax everyone! It’s just the Enterprise coming out of time-warp. What’s the big deal? Didn’t you all see the time travel episode where they went back to the 21st century to save the earth?

  80. mrconnie

    Those are Jews in space

  81. Alan

    Igor,
    Saturn and Jupiter are on different sides of the Solar System at the moment.
    Even if Saturn and Jupiter were at a similar vector, it is highly unlikely that two related objects would ever hit each in the same millenium (except space probes with some sort of mass ejection device).

    Space is big, really big.

  82. Hank Roberts

    Fist? Naw.
    Finger? Closer, but …
    AH! It’s clearly the tip of a Noodly Appendage poking through.

    Oh well.

    ———

    Phil, do you know what it takes to schedule another look at an unexpected event? I assume the schedule is pretty well set for a long time and changes are not easy given the bit rate.

    But oh, if only we had software capable of

    “Huh? That’s funny! I better look again before moving on to the next scheduled item.”

    Oh, wait … meat can do that.

    ———

    The “once is … twice is … three times is …” speculation can be recast as

    Well, we hit the big one and the noise continued.

    And we hit the bright one, and the noise is still going on.

    So we hit the one with the rings, and …. dang! still noisy over there.

    What do we whack next?
    — one of the big blue ones?
    — the little red one? or
    — that improbable twin thing that theoretically can’t possible have developed noisy life forms?

  83. beaver

    its a cloaked spaceship suckin stuff from the rings for fuel or resources i cant believe u all cant see it

  84. Ad Hominid

    How about a small chunk of cometary material, mostly water ice but with some stony or metallic content?

    The collision vaporizes the more volatile constituents, and heats the whole thing to incandescence. This would account for the shape, the incandescent volatiles are expanding, actually exploding, to form the tail near the ring, while the more solid, but still very hot, constituents continue on their now-modified trajectory. The head doesn’t slow as much because it did not vaporize, expand, and catch more of the ring material.

  85. JoeAlvord

    Anyone here read Larry Niven’s “Footfall”? Better get the Dreamer Fithp ready!

  86. Do you remember watching the series Voyager?
    In the opening sequence the star ship flies right through the ring of a planet.
    My friends, that wasn’t shot with models.

  87. Dan Moynihan

    Looking at that pic, and the braiding that is taking place in the direction of motion and behind the area of the impact, i am betting you are seeing an impact on one of the satellites in the F-Ring orbit. not terribly likely, but you don’t have to invent physics to explain what you are seeing.

  88. Crypto

    Well, it seems that eliminating Robo-Prez just wasn’t enough…

  89. kitty

    Great… over at badalien.org I’ve had FIVE emails about how this HAS to be a UFO. Really, uh huh…

    that’s what I get for linking to badastronomy!

    Yes it IS a UFO as in “we don’t know what it is yet, but it sure is cool!”

  90. DeeDee in SE Arizona

    Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven already knew about this 30 or 40 years ago, when the baby elephantoids stopped in the rings to refuel, and then dumped their Bussard ramjet sail into the sun.

    book was _Footfall_

  91. For those wondering, I sent an email to Jerry Pournelle and Niven collaborator Ed Lerner about this. I hope they respond…

  92. Yan Li

    Take a look at the seemingly aerodynamic shape of the thing. space is not empty and this sort of shape would have a purpose, especially among cultures not yet able to manipulate space in order to quickly translate large distances without apparent movement…or inertia. A large planet like Saturn on the fringe of a system would tend to scoop up flotsam and collect it, somewhere. And that somewhere may well be in its’ ring system. This guess is as good as any here assuming that the pic above is about the size of the data we have. The object, if artificial, may by eons old but it could possibly yet possess technology that would prove quite useful to those with the balls to go get it, like the Chinese.

  93. Heh…last time I saw Pournelle he was at the LASFS clubhouse pontificating about privatizing space exploration. That was 2 years ago. Hm…he might be done talking by now. ;)

  94. Mark
  95. Darren Garrison

    When I saw it, I thought of a creature from Farscape (though it took a slashdot comment to put the name on it):

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0PccRlu0xk&feature=related

  96. fabri

    It’s a Viper ! maybe from startbuck ?

  97. Ben

    suffice to say, that alien has now failed his driving test :)
    “what? it was only a little crash”

  98. For such a big planet, Saturn has a tiny fist.

  99. Can’t help noticing that this is near what appears to be a gap in the rings. Is it possible that this is being caused by a shepherd moonlet that’s been pulled out of the plane of the rings?

  100. It was the space ship stupid^^.

  101. Tzarius

    It’s not impossible that a comet or other body would be dragging along a wisp of gaseous material, possibly from melting ice / outgassing or kept close by a (tiny) gravitational field. Given that, the likely high velocity of the collision, the fragility of Saturn’s rings, and the excellent lighting conditions, it’s possible that the high-speed gas moved enough ring material to be visibly bright.

  102. This doesn’t look like a fist at all!

  103. Rift

    Surprised it took until the 21st post for someone to catch the Larry Niven reference…. Caught it when I read the header on my feed.

  104. Rift

    Ooooo, and post 100 to catch the Footfall reference, i should have read the entire thread…

  105. Chris Lamb

    Maybe objects “punching” through the rings like this are in-fact why we have rings around Saturn and not just other moons? Maybe it’s the odd orbit of an object that kind of grinds the matter up which makes the rings and stops them coagulating (for want of a better word)

    Forgive an astronomy noob, but if I’m as far off as I imagine, I would love to know why!

  106. Mike Franklin

    Following one pattern:

    Jupiter
    Venus
    Saturn

    Earth would be next.

  107. steve

    This picture does not look like that the rings were hit, look at the reflection on the object in question , it seems that the dark area on the rings is a shadow and nothig more. As for the object ,I can only speculate

  108. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    @ Gary Ansorge:

    Actually I tried to argue against (quantum) noise emergent phenomena, but perhaps Hawking’s delusions need another answer. The usual reference is to Tegmark’s calculation that decoherence times in biological media is too fast by many (,many,many,many) orders of magnitude for quantum effects to evoke neuronal signals. [Google “Max Tegmark’s quantum mechanics library: brain”: it links to the paper.]

    How many systems “self-organized criticality,etc” do we know of, other than our neural net?

    Well, we know of sandpiles. ;-) The paper, “Neuronal Avalanches in Neocortical Circuits”, John M. Beggs and Dietmar Plenz, The Journal of Neuroscience, December 3, 2003, [no paywall] gives some examples:

    “Tremendous attention in physics has been given recently to the concept of self-organized criticality, a phenomenon observed in sandpile models for avalanches (Paczuski et al., 1996), earthquakes (Gutenberg and Richter, 1956), and forest fires (Malamud et al., 1998).”

    Btw, if I should criticize this paper and probably the others of what we do know, it is that few scientists test their distributions after eyeballing it as a good fit. IIRC blog renowned statistician Cozma Shalisi has a critique where he shows that an exponential fit is often better than the assumed power laws in many cases, and also shows how to test for it. In this case however the authors instead predict and test for other details of the assumed model, so I would be surprised if they were wrong.

  109. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    @ John Weiss:

    Torbjörn Larsson, OM Says:

    No, I mean there’s no membrane.

    Seems we are talking past each other. My suggested mechanism for the object(s) had no surface tension in it, so I assumed we were clear that I made a misplaced attempt of analogy (in the description of geometry).

    Anyway, best let dead analogies lie in peace.

    [Nitpick: The cut-and-paste makes it seem that I say that. More heat. :-o]

  110. ruffready

    That am a “Ring makers of Saturn” alien space ship! I Know from the book long ago.

    WE am witnessing other beings at work like we should be by now at the astroids between Mars and Jupiter.
    We am lazy space folks.

  111. Zaius

    Oh bother .. I knew I forgot to do something … note to self .. next time check orbit on the heavy cruiser before I park it.

  112. Gary Ansorge

    I would never bet against a guy that not only knows a LOT more physics than do I but has also beat all the odds against his survival(Several times over).

    I think Hawking is well worth listening to. Even if he’s wrong, he has some very interesting ideas.

    GAry 7

  113. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    D’oh! Cosma Shalizi, of course. It’s hot here too…

  114. Don’t the two shepherd moons (Prometheus and Pandora) swap their orbits when they meet? That’s bound to have an effect on the ring…

  115. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Gary, I’m sorry if I offended you, or your sense of propriety.

    Hawking certainly know more than me, but he also almost certainly has produced more BS in the process. He is human, after all. But mostly, he is no biologist.

    [I can even drag up some questionable ideas of his on physics, but it wouldn’t be fair to any of us as I can’t really give a technical critique. As you say, his ideas [on physics] are very interesting.]

  116. dan satterfield:

    “Does Cassini have images in wavelengths other than the visible? That would give added clues, no?”

    Yes, but the imaging instrument (with the highest resolution) only images in nearby wavelengths in the IR and UV. You don’t typically see a lot different across that spectrum, in my experience. (Not in morphology in the rings, anyway.)

    There are three other imaging instruments on Cassini, but they are aimed more at spectra than ISS is and therefore had to sacrifice resolution. I don’t know if they were riding on that observation or not, but even if they were, they might not even resolve the feature.

    Clearly, we need another mission. Write your congressman!

  117. Rob

    It’s John Madden’s bus.

  118. UB313

    Of what we’re told, sure seems to be a lot of activity up there. Jupiter impact last month. Venus eruptions last month – actually I think the Jupiter and Venus events were on the same day, but reported a week or more apart. Now these stories about Saturn’s rings.

    Either our solar system is passing through a lot of space junk or a lot of space junk is being pulled through our solar system.

    With our money being spent on space observation from America, Germany, France all the way to Japan, heck even China – you’d think we’d have more info on what’s going on out there. Kind of like a parent giving their college kids money – they’re never going to tell you what they’re spending it on and you’re pretending to not know – but everyone knows.

  119. Otis

    I’m with Billy Blight(94.), it’s clearly Voyager.

  120. Lee

    It sticks out like the sore thumb of an angry god (now you know why he’s angry)

  121. bk

    it looks like Spa-a-a-a-ce Gho-o-o-st!

  122. perlhaqr

    Quantum black hole, or perhaps a chunk of neutronium. Something with enough mass to have a significant gravitational effect, thus dragging out more material than simple collision would account for.

    I mean, as long as we’re chucking out SWAGs… ;)

  123. Kellic

    “So, the Earth scum are alerted to our presence.”
    “Admiral Ozzel came out of light-speed too close to the system.”
    “He felt surprise was a wiser—”
    “He’s as clumsy as he is stupid,”
    “A clean bombardment is impossible through their energy field. Prepare your troops for a
    surface attack.”

  124. Renee

    It’s the spaceship Enterprise trying to make a re-entry near Earth but not so close that Captain Nero can spot them.

  125. Here is an interesting observation you can make in Photoshop. If you open the closeup shot in Photoshop, and do the following, you can see that the projectile may have changed course upon impacting the rings. I’ll leave it to you to determine what happened.

    1) Copy and download the shot to your hard drive
    2) View the projectile at 1200%
    3) Using Variations change the color of the shot to blue or any other strong color
    4) With the color wand tool select the white triangle-shaped area at the bottom of the rising projectile
    5) Adjust brightness setting to -100 to darken the area and increase the contrast to some where between +25 and +31

    What you will see are detail hidden within the burned out image. The blue and grey squares within the burned out white area may indicate the projectile may have exited the ring on the far left of the selected area and wavered to the right before continuing on its upward path on the far right of the selected area.

  126. i know what it is, it´s the ship of the metabaron!

  127. Kea

    Well, Riofrio predicted small black holes around Saturn’s rings.

  128. Anony

    “… but when it comes to this weird, weird place, I’ve learned my intuition is monumentally inadequate. Nature, it turns out, has a far greater imagination than any mere human. We are fated, I think, to watch Nature unfold before us and try to figure it out after the fact.

    But oh, isn’t that the joy of science?”

    So now Nature has an imagination?! That’s not science. By your own beliefs you are an accident! Stay out of theology. That’s for grownups.

  129. “human achievement”?? “nature” has an imagination? i wonder when it became acceptable in the field of scientific inquiry to attribute consciousness to something as all-pervasive and integral to life as we know it. so we can safely assume nature has a consciousness because of “her” glory in outer space, but we can’t possibly assume an intelligence designed nature “herself”?
    when one worships the creation rather than its Creator, one is by definition a pagan. and when you ignore the theological context in which the planet Saturn has been identified, you prove yourself as worships of science and nothing more. but what you need to know is the judgment of God is near. put that under your microscope.

  130. What a fabulous phenomenon discovered! Thank you for a great article. I’ll have to come back here to read all the comments!! It would be fascinating if this vertical structure was built up over eons by the gravitational pull of an object perhaps traversing at an angle to the rings. But I was wondering, is there any chance at all this could be from a past flyby of an Earth-launched probe? I figure this is obviously already checked but just wondered if the scientists have a database of past paths taken through the solar system by spacecraft. Again — Wow!! Thank you.

  131. Veritas

    Perhaps a meteor or large meteorite struck the ring there and created a wake in the ring where it struck.

    Seems logical enough.

    Btw, Saturday is named after Saturn.

  132. Adam Dimond

    Congratulations! You Saved the World Today!

  133. Kim

    It’s absolutely electric, isn’t it?

  134. The JC

    I recommend reading “The Ringmakers of Saturn” by Norman R. Bergrun. Holds BSME degree from Cornell University, an LLB from LaSalle University Extension, a DSc (Hon) from World University and a California Professional Engineer (PE) License. He also has engaged in graduate aerospace studies at Stanford University. He is a founder of the California Society of Professional Engineers Education Foundation, is author of two books Tomorrow’s Technology Today and Ringmakers of Saturn and has published over 100 papers.

  135. Virgil

    If you want to know what’s going on, listen to Prof. James McCanney. His astronomical predictions from 20 years ago have come true. He predicted Saturn’s sweeper moons before they were discovered.

    http://www.jmccanneyscience.com

  136. TallPaul

    In response to Torbjörn Larsson and a few others asking why the rings are so thin. You should look up the theory of how rings are formed. I studied it in some crazy university course I took called “Violent Universe”.

    It was many years ago, but from what I can remember, the formation of the rings has to do with the orbits of lots of objects that have converged over a long long time. Specks of matter that are similar densities will slowly fall into the same orbit. The matter will continue to converge on the same orbit until things start clumping together to form planets. So think of the rings goign through the same process that formed our plant (which would require a very thin ring too).

    I’m no expert, but if you’re asking that question, I believe you would really enjoy the theory that I studied (hopefully it was a widespread theory and wasn’t just some crazy chapter in my book).

  137. Virgil (#162): Or you could read this series of pages where I totally and thoroughly debunk McCanney’s nonsensical crackpottery.

  138. Zebra

    ooops! …sorry, I didn’t know anybody would ever notice.

  139. Ferzaldo

    Sorry Philly. You are the only one on the planet who does’nt understand that you are not on the same level as McCanney.

  140. Ferzaldo (#166): Well, that’s not strictly true. After all, I don’t think very many people at all would place us on the same level. But I suspect that we’re not talking about the same thing.

  141. Dr DNA

    Well, I guess from the looks of it, somebody needs to dig up those dusty old Orion Spacecraft plans of Taylor and Dyson’s before our two-snouted would-be overlords come a knocking!

    @Phil plait Am looking forwards to seeing you at Dragon*Con! You and Gail McKinney could have a field day at the Cassini Panel with this!

  142. Heyuhh ??

    I guess we now know why it’s called the “F”-ring…

  143. Skepticator

    Please stop using “God” in astronomy posts. Instead of saying, ‘hey this nebula looks like a hand,’ it gets written up as the “HAND OF GOD.” This just adds fuel to religious nuts who want to claim astronomy supports the existence of a god.

  144. watson

    The really weird thing is that it punched thru the middle of the ring, or the most dense part, what are the odds.

  145. Carl M

    When I first saw it, my initial thought was that it looked almost like an electrical occurrence… it appears that theory already exists — it would definitely explain the brightness…

    The report says “If the theory is right, these faint features are the signature of awesome events: lightning strokes ten thousand times more energetic than those on Earth, releasing beams of electrons that surge up from Saturn’s surface to whack into the rings and blast out jets of electrically charged dust.”
    http://www.redicecreations.com/article.php?id=53

  146. Thomas

    Clearly an Alien ring surfing

  147. ohjehosephat

    Oh how the universe has squandered her mass. Density upon density draggin ephram across the starlit sky. Where’s jughead?

  148. How about just an errant meteorite punching through the ring? It’s usually the simplest answer that gets the prize.

  149. Beachboy
  150. Mindlesome

    It seems that everybody is focusing on the apparition in the mid-zone of the image,
    but what’s that little dot on the lower right of the larger image? It looks like a small human face.

  151. joel

    It’s the Decepticons! We’re doomed!

  152. Shari

    Check out http://www.projectcamelot.org and see Bob Dean’s presentation at last week’s Exopolitics convention in Barcelona. Also on YouTube. He has a NASA photo of an intelligently guided “what!” that is 2,000 miles long and 400 miles in diameter. That is SOME “Mother Ship,” for sure! Apparently NASA has been aware for some time that there are ETs on our Moon, and circling Saturn in her rings. See also the Russian infrared space photo of an underground city on Mars as large as Chicago. Of course, it could be ours. Secret space program whistleblowers say we have been on Mars and the Moon for decades. Again, Project Camelot has the scoop!

  153. the errant meteor could be an alien spacecraft!, who’s knows!
    that object is unusually large to puncture way through that “LOTR”! in the sky

  154. Hasse

    I wonder why everybody inmediatelly believes that it is inclining because of the shadow. It dark part could just be missing pieces of the ring. Just a crack or maybe an object that hit the ring right from the side (like a truck driving into a corn field).

    Did someone check the direction of the shadow to point direcly away from the sun? This would increase the chance it’s indeed a shadow (but not 100%).

    But if it is an inclination, the size of the inclination is not really clear to me. If the sun is really low to the horizon even a 1 meter high object could cause a shadow that long. Because the sun is dircetly on the edge of the ring, I can immagine that this heats up the side of the ring more then usual. Some icy stuff might vapourate and cause that shadow.

    Sure it’s something we haven’t seend before, but I’m not too impressed with the information presented. Hope we hear more from it soon.

  155. Phil

    It’s George Bush. Surely I’m not the only one whose noticed the guy has vanished off the face of the earth?! Superman buried him on Saturn, but he forgot to remove the guys direct line ear piece to Cheney – who, via a sort of horse whispering technique has managed to rouse him from his unconsciousness. He’s coming back people, and superman gave up his powers when Obama became prez, which, in hindsight, was a little bit stupid.

  156. Alistair Calder
  157. LookingForTheOne

    Always looking for the one theory, the one explanation, the one cause, never considering multiplicity.

    I do agree that the solar inclination would provide more apparent illumination to the column than to the rings, which might be a partial cause of increased brightness.

    I am also interested in the comments that there was apparent “course change” of the object. This suggests that the primary physical property of both the object and the rings is that they are massive, therefore the course of the object was “refracted”. A follow-on is that it may be the case that the total mass of the passing object changed significantly, contributing to the overall course change. True, there may also be electrical properties involved but those would likely be magnitude(s) smaller and lacking expertise I defer to the electricians on that.

    Taking into account the course change, the possible mass change, and the possible reactions that may have taken place (combustion, ionizing, radioactive, electrical, other?) there may be any number of things contributing to the total increase in brightness.

    I have generally thought that the existence of Saturn’s rings provided empirical evidence negating the “planetary accretion” theory as I was exposed to in school, because they really appear to be NOT accreting. You can only still sell that if you can prove that the Saturnalia are “below critical accretive mass”, and to a degree this event might substantiate that, but only if you can prove the passing object permanently ejected more mass than it “left behind”. Wish you luck.

    As to the leap of non-faith, I would add this. A literal interpretation of Genesis yields that God’s “day” is not the Earth Day, the planets were built by some means and later assembled into systems with extremely high rotational dynamic integrity. Not perfect, mind you, that’s reserved to God himself. In order to accomplish this, gravity was created so things would orbit, gravity was pretty useless before that. So the Firmament “holds back” the upper waters, which I interperet as Gravity holding the atmospheric vapors DOWN so they don’t fly off into the void, contrary to those frequently added illustrations of the Firmament holding the upper waters UP.

  158. Notborn Yesterday

    Hey you’s guys…
    Haven’t you ever had an accident with your coffee at your desk?
    Somewhere there’s one very nervous film developer who’s dead scared he’s gonna get found out for dripping his coffee on the negative and wiping it off with his sleeve. ho hum.

  159. Bill

    Fist of God? Looks more like a bit of toenail.

  160. IVAN3MAN

    LookingForTheOne:

    I have generally thought that the existence of Saturn’s rings provided empirical evidence negating the “planetary accretion” theory as I was exposed to in school, because they really appear to be NOT accreting. You can only still sell that if you can prove that the Saturnalia are “below critical accretive mass”, and to a degree this event might substantiate that, but only if you can prove the passing object permanently ejected more mass than it “left behind”. Wish you luck.

    According to Wikipedia, the Roche Limit, sometimes referred to as the Roche Radius, is the distance within which a celestial body, held together only by its own gravity, will disintegrate due to a second celestial body’s tidal forces exceeding the first body’s gravitational self-attraction. Inside the Roche limit, orbiting material will tend to disperse and form rings, while outside the limit, material will tend to coalesce.

    Typically, the Roche limit applies to a satellite disintegrating due to tidal forces induced by its primary, the body about which it orbits. Some real satellites, both natural and artificial, can orbit within their Roche limits because they are held together by forces other than gravitation. Jupiter’s moon Metis and Saturn’s moon Pan are examples of such satellites, which hold together because of their tensile strength. In extreme cases, objects resting on the surface of such a satellite could actually be lifted away by tidal forces. A weaker satellite, such as a comet, could be broken up when it passes within its Roche limit.

    Since tidal forces overwhelm gravity within the Roche limit, no large satellite can coalesce out of smaller particles within that limit. Indeed, almost all known planetary rings are located within their Roche limit, Saturn’s outer E-Ring being a notable exception — unlike the other rings, the source of the E Ring’s material was determined to be cryovolcanic plumes emanating from the “tiger stripes” of the south polar region of the moon Enceladus. Planetary rings could either be remnants from the planet’s proto-planetary accretion disc that failed to coalesce into moonlets, or conversely have formed when a moon passed within its Roche limit and broke apart.

    :cool:

  161. IVAN3MAN

    Skepticator (#170) above is right. Whenever Dr. Phil Plait or some other astrophysicist mentions ‘god’ in the metaphorical sense, the religious nutcases (mentioning no names) come out of the woodwork and start spouting their home-schooled nonsense. :roll:

  162. i count four stars, that must be the ‘ghetto’ side of our system :P

  163. Evidently this is the first evidence of UFO activity outside of the Earth. Those pesky aliens are everywhere!

  164. David Bowman

    The thing’s hollow… it goes on forever… and… oh my God… it’s full of stars!

  165. Jason

    Picard needs to stop letting Wesley drive.

  166. Robert Sutton

    Are all the Concorde SSTs accounted for since they were grounded? Has anyone seen Branson lately?

  167. Could it be that Saturn is just giving Earth the finger? It is in the F-ring afterall.

  168. Harry Red

    Beware the baby elephants…

  169. Eric

    No… My assumption, based on years of studies, is that Cassini dumped a load full of brown bears (yes, bears). If you take the pictures and have a really good look at the evidence, you’ll see that those are really bears.
    What I don’t know is why would someone send bears in a space mission. Probably it will take me another couple of years to figure this one out.

  170. Lynn

    Maybe it’s an instrument that re-aligns energies. . .similar to an accupuncture needle. . .

  171. tudor

    I think the object going through shouldn’t be too big so that it’s gravity would create this spectacular result.
    To obtain this, the ring particles should not “fall” into the asteroid; it is enough to moved the particle with only a few meters…
    Since the ring is few meter thick, a few meter diameter asteroid is enough.

  172. LookingForTheOne

    IVAN3MAN: thanks for your excellent and enjoyable post.

    To me this is the essence of good scientific debate, where the intuitive layman scientific perspective, which may as well be guided by spirituality, may work together with a more specialized and sophisticated perspective to approach the truth.

    The “leap of un-faith” in scientifc areas will always fascinate me. As for example Darwinism which suggests that since evolution is the principal stuff that happens, we should see numerous transitional forms all around us, and a long and complicated fossil record of them, but we don’t. Resemblance does NOT prove evolution, just that things were developed along family lines, in my view.

    So, applying the same concepts to the prpoposition that planetary and solar system accretion are the principal stuff that happens, we have some follow-on questions.

    Can we say that the astronomical record to-date shows many ongoing such processes, with planets and solar systems readily discovered in various intermediate stages? If not, why not? It’s all about proximate conditions, we’re caught in our own center of the universe.

    Was there a big bang? If so, how did that degrade into so many fundamentally circular processes? Not that everything IS circular, but that’s the large statistical majority of what we can see (proximate conditions) and yet my intuition would lead me to expect that ellipses and parabolas would be the rule and circular the major exception, if the true origin is the Big Bang.

    The true proto-planetary conditions may never be proximate, that’s the problem. The major rings aren’t really a good proxy for that state, it’s true, and their major feature other than mass, IS tensile strength, which may give rise to a “ball bearing effect” that negates any tendency to accrete.

    The irony of the Rings is that if the E-Ring really is composed of cryovolcanic plumes, then that might be the closest available set of proximate condition to the protoplanetary ones, and yet it’s stated that they are NOT accreting.

    My thinking is that solar systems in general are composite systems, they may have been formed out of common material originally, but then captivity can also happen, the most interesting case having caught publicity recently, the “retrograde orbit” kind of object. Its’ captor star should “accrete” it fairly rapidly, one would think.

    The Bible says there will be signs in the heavenlies. And also the literal Genesis strongly indicates that plant life was created on this planet BEFORE the solar system we percieve was assembled. Check it and see.

  173. Pepijn

    Funny, I’m just reading 2001: A Space Odyssey… :-)

    PS: *obviously*, it was a miniature black hole (possibly created by the LHC) punching through the ring…

  174. As for Bill’s quote “Fist of God? Looks more like a bit of toenail.”
    –well, we are looking at the event from rather far away. My guess is that the object is indeed striking the ring at an angle allowing it to plow through enough material to be easily seen.

    My question is this: Do the Cassini mission specialists have raw, unmined data that might allow them to backtrack the trajectory of this object, and more importantly, could Cassini loop around on a later orbit for a near pass to where ever this object will be–will the orbits synch up at a later date to permit a flyby? That’s what I would like to know.

    For those of you who really want what Paul Harvey called a ‘strange,’ then check this out http://smu.edu/newsinfo/releases/01342.html
    Probably an artifact of the data—but….

  175. Dominick

    People, you’re all wrong. It’s a time-delay photo proving that Michael Jordan WAS right in that old MacDonald’s commercial where he was describing competing basketball shots with Larry Bird:

    “Through the asteroid belt, around the rings of Saturn……nuthin’ but net…”

  176. It looks more to me like a shadow is being cast on the particles in orbit by the object.

    The angle of the bright part of the object leads me to believe that.

    Have an amazing day!

    Micheal

    UFO’s are BSO’s

  177. GrassyNoel

    Eddie’s in the space-time continuum.

  178. Dr. Einstein

    What you’re witnessing is Saturn Warming. The pressure beneath the rings has expanded the ring subsurface, compressing and melting them ever thinner. The abberaton you see is an aneurysm point.

  179. alboraq

    To me, it resembles a sphere which’s come down at a curving trajectory, glanced on part of the rings to produce a disc shaped splash pattern, then carried on curving back up.

    Either that or an improbably positioned hot dog balanced on a plate.

  180. IVAN3MAN

    LookingForTheOne:

    IVAN3MAN: thanks for your excellent and enjoyable post.

    You’re welcome, I’m glad that you liked it; that’s not the usual response that I, or anyone else for that matter, get here from creationist/ID proponents when a counter-argument is made against their assertions. In fact, I had not expected you to return, because usually such comments are of the ‘hit-and-run’ type by creationists who parrot the usual “evilution” propaganda.

    The “leap of un-faith” in scientifc [sic] areas will always fascinate me. As for example Darwinism which suggests that since evolution is the principal stuff that happens, we should see numerous transitional forms all around us, and a long and complicated fossil record of them, but we don’t.

    Nonsense! It’s that favourite old chestnut of creationists again! ( :roll: ) You can find a list of transitional fossils here.

    Can we say that the astronomical record to-date shows many ongoing such processes, with planets and solar systems readily discovered in various intermediate stages?

    Indeed there is! Behold…

    * List of Stars With Known Protoplanetary Disks.

    * List of Notable Extrasolar Planets.

    * Fomalhaut b: First Exoplanet Observed Optically.

    * Full List of Known Extrasolar Planets.


    Was there a big bang? If so, how did that degrade into so many fundamentally circular processes?

    There is a full list of frequently asked questions and answers here: Evidence for the Big Bang.

    The irony of the Rings is that if the E-Ring really is composed of cryovolcanic plumes, then that might be the closest available set of proximate condition to the protoplanetary ones, and yet it’s stated that they are NOT accreting.

    There is nothing ironic about it the E-Ring; unlike the other rings of Saturn, it is a diffuse disk consisting mostly of ice, with silicates, carbon dioxide and ammonia emminating from the cryovolcanic south polar region of the moon Enceladus. While a majority of the particles fall back to the surface, some of them escape Enceladus’ gravity — 0.111 m/s2 — and enter orbit around Saturn, since Enceladus’ escape velocity is only 866 km/h. However, numerous mathematical models show that such a ring is unstable, with a lifespan between 10 000 and 1 000 000 years. Therefore, particles composing it must be constantly replenished. Enceladus is orbiting inside this ring, in a place where it is narrowest, but present in its highest density. So, if the cryovolcanoes of the moon Enceladus were to cease, then the E-Ring would eventually ‘condense’ back onto the moon due to its rather weak gravitational pull.

    I’ll address your other comments later…

  181. IVAN3MAN

    Goddamn it! That should be emanating, not “emminating”!

    Man, I’ve got to stop listening to Eminem tunes, and I need a coffee break!

  182. Jonny

    If I understand some of you correctly, are you saying we should all smoke-up before gazing upon the cosmos? Even professionally?

    Where do I sign-up?

  183. johhney

    It’s QUITE obviously the displayed energy extracted from the trajectory so clearly defined, exhibited by the light energy from the rings themselves. duhh

  184. saturn f-ring
  185. Brian H

    It’s weirder than we can imagine …

  186. nic

    if its a fist, then that must be a finger sticking up

  187. Tim S.

    It’s probably a meteor that, as it crashed through icy particles in the ring, generated enough friction to melt the ice. Maybe we’re looking at temporary water!

  188. LookingForTheOne

    Hello, Ivan.

    Several things to go over. All through the thread, we have the commonplace that no one will revere or fear, but many reflexively take in vain. That’s as regards god or God, hell or Hell, in many of these quotations. I have always asked, if one does not believe, why invoke or insult or actually express hatred ?

    Thanks for calling me a creationist with a lower “c”, that’s pretty apropos from your viewpoint. Actually I would say I am closer to Creationist, but with an extremely open mind. Speaking of Chestnuts, that word is definitely one, as was the version of Accretion theory, and Evolotion for that matter, that was taught in the timeframe I hark from. Cut me slack, I’m a ’53 and worth less than some guitars of that time. Major Chestnuts were low-hanging fruit then, and most have been heavily re-engineered since then.

    You cite Wiki, I read that when I can, but sometimes the window sticks to the wallpaper and heads straight into a Black Hole, ouch. I have looked around, and many discoveries since ’53 pretty much match up with or build from some of my perceptions, I am not the only one thinking the thoughts and most are scientists. If I get a chance I will pull some quotes.

    As regards Genesis 1 and Big Bang, again, I am not alone in developing viewpoints, do check out:

    http://www.christianpost.com/blogs/creationvsevolution/2009/08/does-genesis-1-1-describe-the-big-bang-06/index.html

    If I ever get my synthesis of the translations together, I will post it somewhere, my view is already more detailed than in the article linked, I haven’t checked out the book reference.

    The main thing about the Rings is, why so shallow, only 1 Km deep? I have been trying to track down some simple facts, like Saturns’ orbit and rotation are posigrade, but what about the Rings? Are they posigrade, too, maybe the Saturnian equivalent of geostationary? I recently got a hunch that they are mostly formed out of a retrograde captive or several that broke up, and as the particles got suitably small, some kind of electrogravitic action groomed them as they are.

    Tying together most of astrophysics and the particle realm as well, I part with quite a bit of Chestnut Creationism because it appears to imply that God’s created Natural Laws were not constant, but God himself is the essence of Constancy. We may not have all manifestations of those laws in proximity to observe empirically, that’s where it gets dicey when we try to second guess all parts of the puzzle. I don’t doubt that many Chestnut scientific theories, as they re-engineer themselves, will come in greater concordance with the true literal interpretation of God’s Word as that finally becomes “unsealed” as The Boook itself says is happening.

    The whole thing about Evolution is so problematic. Read a piece today by one of the great Geneticists and in 5 pages he covered how we already know all there is to know and BTW a species can evolve into another without actually defining what defines a species, where the boundary lies, and how it gets crossed, very dissapointing. Hey, I read a book a ways back about how 80 PCT of human DNA is “Junk”. These guys want to TAKE OVER EVOLUTION? I need a lawyer, what kind of contract covers that? They gonna work on me? Where’s the consent form? This paragraph stinks but you get the drift.

    BTW in the literal, God “cloned” woman from man. Sends a strong message on the wisdom of us doing it. Also poses the question: how did sex evolve? I can’t picture it, myself, it’s one of those mysteries that could NOT have just happened, not in a quadrillion.

    To close on Evolution, I think if all the translations were properly synthesized, we’d know the exact story on the degree to which we were created “static” and “dynamic”. Where are the LIVING transitional forms? What defines transitional? Here’s an irony for you, somewhere (on this blog?) I saw a post about some Chestnut Creationist yammering that Nessie proves the “Literal Creation”, I don’t recall how. So what if Nessie is actually a living Transitional? Seeing would be believing in that case. Maybe there is an ancient ice cave down there somewhere?

  189. Erik

    It’s the wake from a Saturnian space probe. The native Saturnians are all packing up and leaving because there are too many camera-snapping tourists around these days. By means of http://filesmixx.com i’ve found a nice book, which in detail explains all the pitfalls of the issue.

  190. IVAN3MAN

    Deleted by author to re-edit.

  191. IVAN3MAN

    LookingForTheOne:

    My thinking is that solar systems in general are composite systems, they may have been formed out of common material originally, but then captivity can also happen, the most interesting case having caught publicity recently, the “retrograde orbit” kind of object. Its’ [sic] captor star should “accrete” [sic] it fairly rapidly, one would think.

    I presume that you are referring to the recent discovery of WASP-17b, an exoplanet with a retrograde orbit around the star WASP-17. The most likely theories for this are a gravitational slingshot resulting from a near-collision with another planet, or the intervention of a smaller planet-like body working to gradually change WASP-17b’s orbit by tilting it via the Kozai mechanism.

    The Bible says there will be signs in the heavenlies.

    Did you mean heaven lies? In which case, you are right! ;-)

    And also the literal Genesis strongly indicates that plant life was created on this planet BEFORE the solar system we percieve [sic] was assembled. Check it and see.

    Are you serious?! The Bible was written by desert goat herders who plagiarized the creation story from the Babylonians.

    As regards Genesis 1 and Big Bang, again, I am not alone in developing viewpoints, do check out: [URL omitted].

    Again, that is just one of a multitude of creation myths from around the world; the Hindu creation myth correlates the most with the Big Bang and Darwin’s theory of evolution.

    I have always asked, if one does not believe, why invoke or insult or actually express hatred?

    That is only in response to Evangelical fundamentalists who want to force their brand of religion down the throats of “heathens”, and also because of general religious intolerance towards those who don’t share their beliefs. I have no problem with religious people who keep their beliefs to themselves.

    The main thing about the Rings is, why so shallow, only 1 Km deep? I have been trying to track down some simple facts, like Saturns’ [sic] orbit and rotation are posigrade*, but what about the Rings? Are they posigrade*, too, maybe the Saturnian equivalent of geostationary? I recently got a hunch that they are mostly formed out of a retrograde captive or several that broke up, and as the particles got suitably small, some kind of electrogravitic** action groomed them as they are.

    *The correct word is prograde. Saturn’s rings orbit in a prograde direction with the planet’s rotation.

    **That pseudo-science word is something that an “Electric Universe” nutter would use. ;-)

    ***The explanation for the thinness of Saturn’s rings is that particles closer to the primary more quickly than particles farther away, in accordance to Kepler’s third law, and the varying orbital speed of the material eventually causes it to form a ring. Collisions between particles, over a period of time, eventually force the them in line along the equatorial plane of Saturn into individual ringlets. The particles, as a result of a mechanism based on the synchronization phenomenon due to the epicycle rotational phases of particles in the ring, under certain conditions, become synchronized with the phase of an external satellite; e.g., with the phase of Mimas in the case of the outer B ring edge. This synchronization eliminates collisions between particles and suppress the diffusion induced by collisions to a great extent. This synchronization theory also gives the sharpness of the ring edges in few tens of metres that is in agreement with available observations.

    I don’t doubt that many Chestnut scientific theories, as they re-engineer themselves, will come in greater concordance with the true literal interpretation of God’s Word as that finally becomes “unsealed” as The Boook [sic] itself says is happening.

    I refer you to my comment about “desert goat herders” and “creation myths” above.

    Hey, I read a book a ways back about how 80 PCT of human DNA is “Junk”.

    According to Wikipedia, junk DNA is a provisional label for the portions of the DNA sequence of a chromosome or a genome for which no function has been identified. The term was introduced in 1972 by Susumu Ohno, but is, as of 2008, somewhat outdated, being used mainly in popular science and in a colloquial way in scientific publications. For some sequences once classified as junk DNA, functions have been found, and others are subject to ongoing research. About 95% of the human genome has once been designated as “junk”, including most sequences within introns and most intergenic DNA. While much of this sequence may be an evolutionary artifact that serves no present-day purpose, some junk DNA may function in ways that are not currently understood. Moreover, the conservation of some junk DNA over many millions of years of evolution may imply an essential function. Some consider the “junk” label as something of a misnomer, but others consider it appropriate as junk is stored away for possible new uses, rather than thrown out; others prefer the term “noncoding DNA” (although junk DNA often includes transposons that encode proteins with no clear value to their host genome). About 80% of the bases in the human genome may be transcribed, but transcription does not necessarily imply function.

    [H]ow did sex evolve? I can’t picture it, myself, it’s one of those mysteries that could NOT have just happened, not in a quadrillion.

    I’ll refer you to this article in Science Daily: Parasites May Have Had Role In Evolution Of Sex.

    Where are the LIVING transitional forms? What defines transitional?

    Look in the mirror and all around you; all life forms are currently in transitional stages — evolution does not stop.

    So what if Nessie is actually a living Transitional? Seeing would be believing in that case. Maybe there is an ancient ice cave down there somewhere?

    It has been speculated that the Loch Ness Monster is (supposedly) an extinct plesiosaur, a long-necked aquatic reptile that went extinct during the Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event. However, the following argument have been made against it:

    * Plesiosaurs were probably cold-blooded reptiles requiring warm tropical waters, while the average temperature of Loch Ness is only about 5.5 °C (42 °F). Even if the plesiosaurs were warm-blooded, they would require a food supply beyond that of Loch Ness to maintain the level of activity necessary for warm-blooded animals.

    * In October 2006, the New Scientist headlined an article “Why the Loch Ness Monster is no plesiosaur” because Leslie Noè of the Sedgwick Museum in Cambridge reported, “The osteology of the neck makes it absolutely certain that the plesiosaur could not lift its head up swan-like out of the water”. However, this does not rule out the reports where a head and neck was not seen.

    * The loch is only about 10,000 years old, dating to the end of the last ice age. Prior to that date, the loch was frozen solid for about 20,000 years.

    * If creatures similar to plesiosaurs lived in the waters of the Loch Ness, they would be seen very frequently as they would have to surface several times a day to breathe.

    * There is insufficient fish in the Loch to sustain a family of such creatures.


    ***Source: Synchronization mechanism of sharp edges in rings of Saturn.

  192. IVAN3MAN
  193. This is a one-time event; it dissipates too much kinetic energy to be a persistent object.

    Also, the inclination angle (about 30º) is too steep to be something orbiting Saturn. Objects orbit in the equatorial plane.

    This is a meteor that smashed through the rings at high speed. Note that it gets deflected when it hits a large ring particle. Exit angle is about 45º).

    There are more relevant details in this photo which you didn’t notice, and they all indicate an extra-Saturnian impactor. See them in my annotated copy of the photo:
    http://blogs.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendId=150103974&blogId=508851085

  194. LookingForTheOne

    Back to topic, I think.

    Since you dinged me on “posigrade”, let’s say I didn’t know the correct term, and as is often the case in web searches, my first guess was this, there were lots of hits, I didn’t have time to fully digest and also didn’t quickly find corrective references to the preferred scientific term “prograde”, IE like retroactive/proactive. Thanks for clarifying this.

    So the original title of this piece is puzzling, “fist of an angry god”. Saturn is the namesake of one of those lesser gods, true, and as a god of war, likely to be angry. Be careful what you will find searching on this term, if you’re trying to find a link back to this blog….

    Why such great surprise at the event pictured? To the extent of “wth”? As with posigrade, I can find any number of posts that suggest events like this should be fairly commonplace, give what’s generally understood about the moons and the rings. It might be interesting to know the continuing track of the object, and whether mass was permanently extracted from the rings. Not worth major tax dollars, though, to investigate.

    Mr. Ivan, you are looking for an argument when you bring up plagiarism. I myself have often thought, just about every time I reread Genesis 1, which is the inspired Word, with the benefit of my adult eduaction and experience, that many modern scientists have in fact plagiarized much of the body and theory of their science directly out of the Good Book, and deliberately omitted crediting their source. Many of these scientists seem to espouse a spirituality that originates somewhere near Babylon, that you mention it, which brings along this very specific flavor of intolerance and also the self-righteous willingness to steal just about anything that isn’t nailed.

    Once more lightly over evolution. In a web search on “Genesis 1″, I found convergent links to a site hosting multiple Bible versions of questionable integrity, and as well a link to the prominent Christian scientist’s view on the Big Bang, and other links to his views on Evolution and Biblical Literalism in general. I am now waiting for my copy of his book which I expect to be most enlightening reading.

    Evolution is the pure mechanist’s view of things. Mechanism fails at any given order of infinity, the center of the universe, the end of the universe, the beginning or end of time. So why accept that framework? The Mechanist debunk of mechanical evolution, then, is that it fails at the origin of life, there is no logical beginning.

    BTW, if evolution is a willful adaption, why are orthodontists making big bucks in a growth industry fixing what should be a fully-evolved self-adjusting mechanism?

    The spiritualist view is more profound, evolution fails at the origin of the soul. What is the essence of the soul, how did it “evolve” and what mechanism provides for it’s bondedness into our bodies? I am 50/50 on whether you will claim you have one, Mr. Ivan.

  195. Zathras

    Zathras say, “Pretty rings.”

    Zathras say, “A shame to ruin the symmetry of the pretty rings….

    Zathra say, “Don’t drive the Star Fury through the rings…”

    “No one listens to Zathras.”

  196. veramente un post interessante

  197. More like tiny bugger of god

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