picture of the day
Edge-on image of Saturn's F-ring.
Credit: NASA/JPL Cassini-Huygens mission.
Nov 12, 2007
Kinks in Saturn's Rings
Braids and twists in the rings of Saturn suggest
activity in addition to gravitational attraction. Could
electricity be one of the formative agents?
F-ring was discovered by
Pioneer 11 during its 1979 flyby of the giant planet. When
the Voyager 1 space probe
passed by Saturn
in November of 1980, it returned stunning pictures of
Saturn's rings that were completely unanticipated. Two of
the most intriguing discoveries were the "spokes" seen
drifting above the ring plane and the twisted and interlaced
structure of the F-ring.
higher resolution camera found five separate strands in a
region with no braiding and one small section where the
F-ring was twisted. Additional polarized light images of the
brightest F-ring filaments proved them to be subdivided into
at least ten smaller strands. The twists in the ring are
theorized to be
caused by one of two "shepherd moons,"
mission placed an observation platform in orbit around
Saturn, designed to last until mid-2008. Several images of
the F-ring seem to indicate a helical structure that twists
around a central cylinder, rather than a braid. There are
what look like three toroidal shapes visible in the image at
the top of the page, with the tips of many others visible
along the strand. In the center of the three helical
filaments is a bright, rotating tube that shows where the
forces have become concentrated.
Picture of the Day articles about the plasmasphere around
Saturn, it was noted that planets and moons do not exist in
an electrically neutral environment. Saturn, in particular,
family of moons that
exhibit electric discharge machining on a vast scale, as
well as features within its atmosphere that could be
Its aurora are an intense radio-emitter and the planet is
surrounded by a torus of plasma that emits x-rays and
extreme ultra-violet light. Saturn seems to display many
aspects that are predicted by the Electric Universe theory,
including the shape of its rings.
in plasma aren't isolated, they are connected by circuits.
Most of the time they are not in equilibrium because they
are in unstable conditions. The majority of them are moving
across the plasma filaments that exist in the solar system
and in the plasmaspheres around planets. Currents in plasma
contract into filaments (which are really sheets of
double-layers folded into tubes) and the force between
filaments is linear, so the electromagnetic fields created
by the filaments are the most powerful long-range attractor
in the universe.
conducted his now-famous experiment where a small,
magnetized iron globe was placed in a vacuum and used as the
cathode in electric discharges. As he wrote about Saturn's
rings: "It seems almost incredible that such a ring of
cosmic dust should be able to exist for ever, so to speak,
without other governing forces than gravitation..."
physics experimenter, author and theorist
Wal Thornhill wrote
in agreement with Birkeland's work:
"As shown in [Birkeland's]
laboratory experiments, the inflowing [conventionally]
electric current forms a plasma donut where the electrical
energy is stored. It is that energy that drives the winds
and lightning on Saturn...In fact, Saturn has two plasmoids.
One is outside the rings, the other inside the rings.
Discharges to Saturn must cross the rings."
relying on the gravity-only model of the solar system and
its insistence that Saturn's rings can only be created, held
and shaped by the activity of "shepherd moons" and angular
momentum, we should look to a force that is orders of
magnitude more powerful: electricity.
By Stephen Smith
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