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No. 43: Jan-Feb 1986

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Waiting for saturn's rings to collapse

The more we learn about Saturn's rings, the stranger they seem. One of the latest theoretical models of the rings has them composed of balls of hard ice, which interact through mutual collision and are herded by the gravitational caresses of small moons. The successes of this model have been tempered by the fact that it also implies that Saturn's rings are very young.

"Theorists would have no problem with a broad, featureless disk surviving the 4.5 billion years since the early days of the solar system, but features such as spiral density waves are clear evidence that satellites, including the profusion of small ones found near the rings, are draining angular momentum from the rings. The satellites should be spiraling outward into ever larger orbits as they gain angular momentum, and the A-ring should collapse inward into the B-ring in just 100 million years as its particles lose angular momentum."

(Kerr, Richard A.; "Making Better Planetary Rings," Science, 229:1376, 1985.)

Reference. For other indications of youth in Saturn's rings, see ARL16 in our catalog: The Moon and the Planets. For information on this book, visit: here.

From Science Frontiers #43, JAN-FEB 1986. 1986-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987