back to article Star-watchers: Famous moon left half-smeared by dirty ring

A well-known moon has been smeared half-dark by dirt coming from an enormous ring, according to reports. Long-exposure shot of Iapetus, moon of Saturn, taken by the Cassini probe. Credit: NASA The dirt boundary of Iapetus. Science magazine has the story, quoting "ring specialist" Joseph Burns as saying: "It's nice to …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Journalism at its finest

    Another excellent ring piece from El Reg.

  2. David Cherry 1

    tidally locked

    The moon must have a rotation equal to the orbit of the moon, as the Earth's moon has. If you want to test this out use a penny and put it into orbit around a coffee cup. To keep the same face to the coffee cup you must rotate the penny once per orbit.

  3. Stuart Rogers

    Pedantry alert

    "it doesn't spin about its own axis, instead always keeping the same face to its primary"

    It does spin about its own axis - its spin period is equal to its orbital period, which is why it always presents the same face to its primary.

  4. ForthIsNotDead

    Oh my word...

    A half smeared dirty ring? I don't think I can think of anything worse. I mean, think of the itching.

    Ok, I'll get my coat.

  5. Anonymous Coward


    Where the hell did this 'mysterious' extra ring come from?

    It's not like we've not been looking at our own solar system for years, how did they manage to miss this completely for so long?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Dirty rings

    Surely uranus would be a better place to look.

    Paris ? make up your own.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fnarr fnarr

    "dirt coming from an enormous ring"

    yip yip

  8. Winkypop Silver badge

    Dirty burn rings?


  9. Sillyfellow
    Black Helicopters

    our moon will be dusty tomorrow too..

    just wait till NASA bomb our moon tomorrow. then you'll see obscuring dust clouds...

    NASA's LRCROSS plan to bomb the dark side of the moon at the South pole scheduled for October 8, 2009. The excuse given is that this is an effort to find water deep under lunar surface.

  10. Oz

    Darkening of the Ring?

    ... And worst of all it appears to be contagious! Best keep an eye on mine just in case.

  11. SmallYellowFuzzyDuck, how pweety!

    Oo-er missus

    And after that they Saturn Uranus.

    Fnar *Snort*

  12. jsp

    Re; WTF

    It may be very big, but it is very, very faint because it is so spread out.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "doesn't spin about its own axis"

    "it doesn't spin about its own axis, instead always keeping the same face to its primary"

    Oh yes it does.

    If it didn't spin about its own axis, it wouldn't - couldn't - keep the same face to its primary.

  14. Paul 25


    Thanks for that link, I haven't laughed so much since about ten minutes ago when I read about the cage-fighting transvestites.

    There are some real cretins out there.

  15. Ed Blackshaw Silver badge

    Re: WTF

    Probably because it is dark and diffuse, so only visible in the infrared. Apart from the fact that human eyes cant actually see infrared, it also gets absorbed by the Earth's atmosphere, so it can only be seen by space-based telescopes, such as the Spitzer in this case.

  16. Sillyfellow
    Thumb Down


    why do you find this planned bombing of our moon so funny? do you know something i don't? if so, please share...

    either way, we'll see what happens tomorrow, innit !

  17. Ed Blackshaw Silver badge


    That last image was an artist's whatnot. This one is the actual one from the Spitzer telescope:

  18. Ed Blackshaw Silver badge

    Nice picture of the ring here (fnarr)

    Along with an explanation of why it is hard to see...

  19. Chris 2


    I take it you read the comments? Hilarious.

    Surely the original petition has to be a pisstake, but unless my parodometer is acting up something chronic, a lot of the comments aren't...

  20. TrevorPrinn

    Nothing new


    This is hardly the first time a spacecraft has been crashed into the moon deliberately. Guess what they did with the Lunar Module Ascent stages when they had finished with them. They got a lot of data on the internal structure of the moon by crashing them back. There have also been several spacecraft crashed in the last few years to try to get information about lunar water.

    Anyway, there's all sorts of crap hitting the moon all the time. There was an asteroid strike photographed in the 50s that was a hell of a lot bigger than anything we've sent there.

  21. Dan 21

    @Pedantry alert

    Actually, it has to rotate once per each revolution around the primary, plus or minus once for every revolution around the sun. (Technically, also plus or minus one time for every revoulution of the solar system around the galaxy.)

  22. Graham Marsden


    ... There's no large black monolith on the bright side? (cf the novel of 2001 a Space Odyssey)

  23. HFoster
    Big Brother


    Here, I made you a new tinfoil hat.

    There's a good chap...

  24. Mike Richards

    @ Sillyfellow

    'The excuse given is that this is an effort to find water deep under lunar surface.'

    In which case you'll be horrified to know that we've been smashing things into the Moon since Luna 2 in 1959, including some pretty huge piece of metal such as the 15 tonne final stages of the Saturn V Moon rocket. You'd be amazed to know what you can learn by hitting the Moon hard enough.

  25. jsp


    The petition is merely surreal. I assume it was intended as a joke.

    This, on the other hand, is truly nuts:

  26. This post has been deleted by its author

  27. No, I will not fix your computer

    Actually you're all wrong

    You have to remeber that everything is relative;

    "it doesn't spin about its own axis, instead always keeping the same face to its primary"

    This is (almost) perfectly correct, relative to earth (it wobbles a bit so, over time we can see 57% of the moon).

    For something to be purely spinning, it has to rotate about an axis, i.e. after one rotation it will occupy the same space, which of course the moon does not do as the axis itself is moving, the moons movement is far more complex (precession being the most obvious factor, note that the moon is in a decaying eliptical orbit, but earths rotation, the solar system rotates within the milky way and the milky way rotates within the universe which of course is expanding and these all affect how things move).

    So the moon does experience [geometric i.e. relative] rotation, but the axis of rotation is actually the centre of the earth and moon gravity centre (which is roughly at the earths surface), i.e. the moon does not spin on it's poles, however you could say that the moons axis of rotation is just above the earths surface (which would make the original quote wrong).

    So, David and Stuart, if you are going to try and pick (pedantic) holes in a most excellent article from Finbar Saunders at least make sure you're right (which you're not, or at least you're just as wrong)

  28. David Cherry 1

    @No, I will not fix your computer

    Bad Astronomy: The Moon only shows one face to us because it is not rotating.

    Better astronomy: The Moon only shows one face because it is rotating, once every time it revolves around the Earth.

    Best astronomy: The Moon does not appear to rotate in the reference frame where the Earth-Moon line is fixed in direction, but it does rotate as seen by an outside observer.

  29. pete23

    All these dirty rings...

    In my day, it was all Eye of Iapetus jokes round 'ere.

    - A Concerned Clarke Fan

  30. Anonymous Coward

    Interesting, none-the-less

    And thank you..

  31. RW


    Well done - even if not original.

    Reminds me of why I like the Register's journalism so much.

    Has it been reported to the OED folks?

  32. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

    I for one welcome...

    ...our new alien overlords with the enormous rings.

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