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Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute.

Jan 08, 2000

Dione's Tortuous Cliffs

Saturn's moon, Dione, exhibits some unusual geological formations that may indicate electrical forces at work.

As the Cassini spacecraft continues to explore the environment around Saturn, more close up and detailed images reveal that its moons have experienced what might be called, “catastrophic” events in the past.

As mentioned in a previous Thunderbolts Picture of the Day, Dione and Tethys were found to be active worlds, similar to Enceladus, spewing streams of particles into the plasmasphere of Saturn. Titan, another large moon, has landforms on its surface that suggest to NASA observers that there may be flowing liquid ethane rivers or hydrocarbon lakes present. Although the idea is speculative, it illustrates how strange the moons of the outer solar system really are.

On Dione, several bright cliffs are visible, wrapping around it and extending for many kilometers. In a flyby animation, the camera focuses on those features and shows that they have a braided shape, often cut through craters and intersect other cliffs. Because Dione has no atmosphere and is only 1126 kilometers in diameter, it was thought to be geologically inactive. But then the plumes of charged particles were found erupting from a number of hot spots on its surface.

In the Electric Universe hypothesis, these plumes are plasma discharges that are ejecting material into space, just as on Jupiter's moon Io. It's likely that conditions existed in the past where that activity was much more energetic, forming the etched terrain that we see today.

The grooves and canyons run parallel to each other. They have sharp rims and begin abruptly with no gradually eroded look to them. They have side canyons running off at ninety-degree angles and craters along their length, often in chains. The craters are shallow with no debris around them and have central peaks very much like craters found on Earth’s Moon and on other planets, such as Mars. In past Picture of the Day articles, such formations have been identified with electric discharge machining.

Because the moons of Saturn orbit within its plasmasphere and exchange electrical energy with one another, electricity must be considered whenever we observe unusual morphology. Projecting earthly geologic forces and the slow progress of erosion onto other planets and moons misses the point. Wind and rain erode our planet and presumably create canyons and valleys. But when no wind or rain exists – such as on Dione – how do we explain the fresh looking and unique topography that defies convention? And should we then also question the assumption that wind and rain alone have sculpted the Earth?

By Stephen Smith

Please visit our new "Thunderblog" page

Through the initiative of managing editor Dave Smith, we’ve begun the launch of a new
page called Thunderblog. Timely presentations of fact and opinion, with emphasis on
new discoveries and the explanatory power of the Electric Universe."

new: online video page

The Electric Sky and The Electric Universe available now!


Authors David Talbott and Wallace Thornhill introduce the reader to an age of planetary instability and earthshaking electrical events in ancient times. If their hypothesis is correct, it could not fail to alter many paths of scientific investigation.

More info

Professor of engineering Donald Scott systematically unravels the myths of the "Big Bang" cosmology, and he does so without resorting to black holes, dark matter, dark energy, neutron stars, magnetic "reconnection", or any other fictions needed to prop up a failed theory.

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In language designed for scientists and non-scientists alike, authors Wallace Thornhill and David Talbott show that even the greatest surprises of the space age are predictable patterns in an electric universe.

More info

  EXECUTIVE EDITORS: David Talbott, Wallace Thornhill
Steve Smith, Mel Acheson
  CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Michael Armstrong, Dwardu Cardona,
Ev Cochrane, C.J. Ransom, Don Scott, Rens van der Sluijs, Ian Tresman
  WEBMASTER: Brian Talbott

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