Radical Planet Rings

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Radical planet rings baffle space scientists, according to an article in ScienceNOW, 6 September 2005. Scientists analysing images and information gathered from the Cassini space craft currently exploring Saturn are having a difficult time interpreting the results. One ring, the D ring, has become 10 times dimmer and moved 200 km closer to the planet over the last 25 years. “That’s radical,” commented Carolyn Porco of the Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colorado, who compared the Cassini images with those taken by the Voyager space probe in 1980. It could mean the D ring is “young and short lived.”

Other “equally baffling” results are temperature differences between night side and day side of ring particles, irrespective of their size. They are 15 degrees warmer on their day sides, indicating they all rotate slowly, otherwise they would heat evenly. Linda Spilker of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, (JPL) Pasadena, California commented: “We always thought that mutual collision would lead to a wide variety of rotation rates.”

The F ring, described by ScienceNOW as “thin, braided and kinky” provides the “weirdest of all” results. It is actually a single tightly wound spiral – a unique structure believed to be caused by gravitational disturbances of a small moonlet criss-crossing the ring. However, the F ring has many moonlets and large boulders and a small satellite is unlikely to survive crossing this many times. Dennis Matson, also of JPL commented: “The Complexity of the rings is just dumbfounding.”

Editorial Comment: All these finding wouldn’t be so baffling if the scientists were not trying to explain their finding in terms of billions of years. Genesis describes a universe that is “young and short lived” but scientists and laypeople alike go on ignoring the evidence because they don’t want to be confronted with the fact that we live on the brink of eternity. The God who brought the universe quickly into existence, can bring it to an end equally quickly. (Ref. astronomy, solar-system, time)

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