back to article Friday fun fact: If Stegosauruses had space telescopes, they wouldn't have seen any rings around Saturn

Saturn’s characteristic rings may only be as old as 100 million years, and thus formed during a time when dinosaurs still roamed on Earth. Although NASA’s historic Cassini mission to Saturn is over, astrophysicists are still discovering new facts about the gas giant from the amassed data, including the history of the planet's …

  1. erst

    Mass of rings 20000 times the mass of Mercury, or the other way around? I’m guessing the other way around, or else it would truly be upsetting news.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      mercury mass is about 3x10^23kg

      ... so you seem to be right - that's about 2x10^4 times the quoted mass of the rings.

      (Saturn's mass is 5.6x10^26kg)

    2. Hstubbe

      Given that you can hide a planet the size of mercury in the rings of Uranus and not even notice from a relatively short distance that it's there (ignoring gravitation for the sake of the argument), the rings having 20000x the mass of Mercury sounds plausible.

    3. the spectacularly refined chap

      I thought that as well, didn't even need to look it up to see somethign was dramtatically amiss. I recall reading there's actually very little matter in the rings considering how prominent they are - if you bundled it all up it would form a moon "only" 100 miles across.

      As for the substance of the report I'll continue to have that down as "no one knows" simply because I've seen too many conflicting reports in the past. The prevailing wisdom tends to be they are unstable, perhaps ten years ago the view was they are less than a million years old. Then someone did a simualtion and worked out they could indeed be stable and be up to 4 billion years old. Now a new simulation (admittedly with new data) is saying the opposite.

      Of course, I'm not saying they're wrong, just that I'm not convinced.

    4. S4qFBxkFFg
      Headmaster

      The article says: "At about 1.54 x 10^19 kilograms, they’re less than 20,000 times the mass of Mercury, the smallest planet in the Solar System."

      20000 x Mercury's mass is 6.60208×10^27 kilograms

      1.54 x 10^19 is indeed less than 6.60208×10^27, so the article is correct, if a bit strangely worded.

      1. M. Poolman

        Mass of Mercury = 3.3x10^23 ( https://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/factsheet/)

        3.3x10^23 / 2x10^4 = 1.62x10^19

        So at 1.54 x 10^19 kilograms, they’re slightly less than 1/20000 the mass of Mercury.

        Or a fraction more than 10^16 skateborading Rinoceri

    5. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Ring mass

      Yeah, yeah, OK. We screwed that wording up. Should be obvious we meant 20,000th of Mercury's mass, but didn't make it clear enough. Sometimes fingers type the opposite of what's meant.

      It's fixed. Please don't forget to email corrections@theregister.com if you spot a problem so it can be fixed immediately, rather than having to read every comment to see where we typo'd.

      C.

      1. LeeE Silver badge

        Re: Ring mass

        "Please don't forget to email corrections@theregister.com if you spot a problem..."

        Sounds rather like the Microsoft concept of quality control.

        Please Clapton, grant MS a patent on this method of product 'improvement' - just so that it stops everyone else from using it.

        1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

          "Sounds rather like the Microsoft concept of quality control."

          I am overjoyed that you consider El Reg (staff: ~40) on a par with multibillion-dollar corporation Microsoft (staff: ~130,000) in terms of resources.

          As such, an email letting us know where we've screwed up is always appreciated, never mandatory. We do edit articles before publication and strive to check everything, but sadly not every blunder can be caught when we're trying to get everything out on an hourly basis.

          Cheers

          C.

        2. W.S.Gosset Bronze badge

          Re: Ring mass

          >"Please don't forget to email corrections@theregister.com if you spot a problem..."

          >Sounds rather like the Microsoft concept of quality control.

          Don't be silly.

          1. W.S.Gosset Bronze badge
            Meh

            perspective...

            at the risk of reading too much into what you posted (in the INTERNET?? WHAT ARE THE ODDS??), LeeE this is a slight exaggeration of what it sounded like:

            .

            "OMIGOD OMIGOD OMIGAAAAHHHHD My house burnt down! Where WERE you, Fire Brigade? Why are you just turning up NAAOW??"

            "Err... well, we just heard about it now 'cos some chap in the pub mentioned it.

            You didn't think to ring 000? At any point?

            'Cos, you know, letting us know a specific problem is kinda the POINT of the whole, you know, 000 thing."

            "OMIGAAAHHHHD you are so CRAYYYYY-YUP. GAHHHHD. Were you not listening to MEEEEE??? I was TAWWWKing!!

            O.

            M.

            G!!!!!"

  2. 89724102172714182892114I7551670349743096734346773478647892349863592355648544996312855148587659264921

    Bleach makes rings around Uranus disappear

    1. MyffyW Silver badge

      Eugh ... Bleach should be going nowhere near that part of the solar system.

      1. 89724102172714182892114I7551670349743096734346773478647892349863592355648544996312855148587659264921

        Great jets of anything near Uranus would be distressing

        1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge
          Coat

          Uranus regularly emits jets of gas.

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Flakk Silver badge

        Poor Cl gets no love.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. This post has been deleted by its author

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Distant Origin

    Wasn't this the premise of an episode of "Star Trek Voyager" ?

    From memory the aliens captured Voyager because its existence disagreed with doctrine or something like that.

    Turns out that they were dinosaurs and space-faring ones at that capable of trans-warp travel (!)

    1. Ochib
      Gimp

      Re: Distant Origin

      It was called Distant Origin

      On the planet where Voyager's crew had previously been marooned, Professor Gegen and his assistant Veer, two paleontologists of a space-faring saurian species known as the Voth, discover the skeletal remains of a human, most likely Lt. Hogan. They are fascinated by the similarity of its genome to their own species, and Gegen suggests that this supports the highly controversial Distant Origin theory, that the Voth had originated on a far-distant planet instead of the current area of space from which they rule their empire. Proof of the theory has been sought by other Voth scientists, but the heretical theory has often led to their exile.

      To confirm their proof, Gegen and Veer track down the origin of the skeleton, learning of Voyager's presence in the Delta Quadrant. They locate the ship and transport aboard while cloaked, observing the mostly human crew in the setting. Voyager's sensors detect their presence, and the crew reveals the two Voth. Veer responds instinctively by releasing sedative-tipped needles that strike Chakotay; Gegen grabs the human and transports him aboard his ship, fleeing from Voyager. The Doctor examines Veer and identifies the similar genetic structure; he and Captain Janeway use simulations to determine that the Voths descended from a species of dinosaur known as the hadrosaurs, probably of genus Parasaurolophus.

      Gegen wakes Chakotay, and explains the situation, requesting Chakotay accompany him when he presents his evidence to the Voth elders; meanwhile, Voyager is captured by the Voth. Gegen is put on trial for heresy, and it soon becomes clear that he has been pre-judged guilty and the "trial" is only an opportunity for him to recant and reduce his punishment. Veer, recovered from Voyager, is coerced to act as a witness against Gegen by Minister Odala. Chakotay attempts to argue for Gegen, noting that the Voth theory of origins has changed so much to fit what the Voth wish to believe and not reality. Odala rejects this, sentencing Gegen to a prison colony unless he recants. When he still refuses, she then orders Voyager destroyed and its entire crew, the evidence for his theory, also sent to the prison colony. Gegen, unwilling to see them destroyed, realizes he has no choice but to recant.

      Odala assigns Gegen a new job, and orders Voyager to leave Voth space forever. Before departing, Chakotay gives Gegen a globe of the Earth, which Gegen acknowledges that someday, the Voth will accept as their home world

      1. BigSLitleP

        Re: Distant Origin

        aaaaaand this is yet another reason why i hated Voyager.

        1. DuncanLarge Bronze badge

          Re: Distant Origin

          "aaaaaand this is yet another reason why i hated Voyager."

          Why? It was an excellent episode showing the issues with narrow mindedness and doctrine.

          It took us a while to shake it off, although there are still those who think the earth is flat and at the centre of the universe, which cant possibly have any other life in it because we are so so special.

          Step in the total perspective vortex!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Distant Origin

            there are still those who think the earth is flat and at the centre of the universe

            True, though these are significantly outnumbered by the people who believe that the operation of SUVs have a far greater impact on the environment than volcanic eruptions and the Sun.

            My guess is that a hundred years from our superstitions and beliefs will be roundly mocked by people holding even more bizarre superstitions and beliefs.

            1. Rich 11 Silver badge

              Re: Distant Origin

              the operation of SUVs have a far greater impact on the environment than volcanic eruptions and the Sun.

              For some reason you restrict your interpretation of other people's understanding of the primary driver of climate change to SUVs, inviting comparison of them to volcanoes and a nearby star. I can't imagine why you might do that.

              1. Big John Silver badge

                Re: Distant Origin

                > "For some reason you restrict your interpretation of other people's understanding of the primary driver of climate change to SUVs..."

                Wait, there's only one primary driver of climate change? And we know this how? Consider how little we really know about our complex, highly interconnected climate system. Claiming it has a "primary" driver at this point is less than wise.

          2. Big John Silver badge

            Re: Distant Origin

            > "It was an excellent episode showing the issues with narrow mindedness and doctrine. It took us a while to shake it off..."

            You sure about that? Seems to me those qualities remain in abundant supply. Humans are masters of self-delusion and will remain so until evolution or human fiddling causes major changes to our genome.

    2. IsJustabloke Silver badge
      Stop

      Re: Distant Origin

      There was no such TV show....

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
        Happy

        Re: Distant Origin

        I thought it was Enterprise that didn't happen? Which presumably lives in the same media Twighlight Zone as the 2 Matrix sequels the Star Wars prequels and Highlander 2. Oh and that re-make of Edge of Darkness with Mel Gibson and Ray Winstone.

      2. W.S.Gosset Bronze badge

        Re: Distant Origin

        Neither is this a spoon

  4. Blergh

    Well obviously

    Well surely everyone knows that it was when Earth's second moon collided with Saturn and pushed it out to a much further orbit that both Saturn's rings were created and the dinosaurs got wiped out. They died from sadness that their favourite food no longer existed; the flying velociraptor which did daily commutes between the second moon and Earth (daily as in lunar days because it was quite far).

    1. W.S.Gosset Bronze badge

      Re: Well obviously

      Cthulhu lives!

      Fhtagn. Them Elder Things & Mi-Go ain't gettin' any younger, you know.

  5. mrobaer

    Oops

    I came here expecting incredible discoveries regarding the vision capabilities of the Stegosauruses.

    1. Locky Silver badge

      Re: Oops

      I was more curious at how it would hold them to it's head.

      Now if they had used a telescope on a tripod....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Oops

        Tripodasaurus ?

        1. W.S.Gosset Bronze badge

          Re: Oops

          Rex

      2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
        Coat

        Re: Oops

        I was more curious at how it would hold them to it's head.

        Is this the right time to make the d'youthinkhesaurus "joke"?

        No? Oh well sorry about that. I'll get my coat.

      3. TeeCee Gold badge

        Re: Oops

        Same way sharks use lasers?

  6. Dr. G. Freeman

    If Stegosauruses had space telescopes, ....

    Who's to say they didn't ?

    lots of gaps in the fossil records (maybe haven't found them yet) and , and they lived for 63 million years, 100 million years ago so they could have developed stuff, and it hasn't lasted- look at our civilisation, only 5000-odd years old, and a lot of the older stuff has gone already.

    1. Symon Silver badge
      Pint

      "Who's to say they didn't?" They didn't have opposable thumbs, so how are they gonna work the focusing? ;-) They did have a thagomizer though, as Gary Larsen will tell you!

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thagomizer

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Neither do cats and they managed to build an entire civilisation around themselves.

        Maybe the dinosaurs had a slave species to do all the can opening ?

    2. jelabarre59 Silver badge

      lots of gaps in the fossil records (maybe haven't found them yet) and , and they lived for 63 million years, 100 million years ago so they could have developed stuff, and it hasn't lasted- look at our civilisation, only 5000-odd years old, and a lot of the older stuff has gone already.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silurian_hypothesis

  7. Symon Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    "They wouldn't have seen any rings."

    Well, they might not have seen the _current_ rings. But there might have been other rings which have since fallen into Saturn. It's happened once, it could've happened before. Just sayin'!

    1. Big John Silver badge

      Re: "They wouldn't have seen any rings."

      Three out of four gas giants have rings currently, so it's safe to assume they're created and destroyed fairly regularly.

  8. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
    Boffin

    Prior art(hur)

    "A moon was shattered in its making, and the debris of its creation orbited still..."

    1. W.S.Gosset Bronze badge

      Re: Prior art(hur)

      ("In its making, a moon had been shattered")

      (But I prefer your wording)

  9. Potemkine! Silver badge
    Trollface

    "As old as 100 million years"

    Muahahaha! Everybody knows the Universe was born in October 23, 4004 BC.

    Side question: if Enceladus creates the E Ring, does that mean Enceladus started jetting materials less than 100 millions ago? But then, why?

    1. Jay Lenovo Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: "As old as 100 million years"

      If one reads the lost biblical Book of Beyonce, (Fits somewhere after the dinosaur part of Genesis), we find how this occurred.

      "And on the umpteenth day, God looked again at the heavens and it was still good. But woman pointed out he hadn't done much with the heavens since the 4th day, and also that he hadn't paid enough attention to the heavens in quite a while."

      "So the almighty placed a large ring around an object in the night sky to again demonstrate his love for the heavens."

      "Woman again pestered God as to why she hadn't received such a ring? God, in his omnipotent wisdom, recognized that this labor was something Man should be tasked with doing."

      Thus the biblical parable "If thou liketh, thou best to put a ring on it"

  10. adam 40

    It depends on your frame of reference

    From the ring's perspective....

    "Doyouthinkesurus"

  11. theastrodragon

    The resulting motion of the probe suggested Saturn’s gravitational field was much higher than expected, and this field is affected by how fast its internal matter spins

    Am I the only one who went 'huh?' at this?

    1. adam 40

      Kerr metric

      A rotating body curves spacetime differently to a static body, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kerr_metric

    2. Wellyboot Silver badge

      I had think about this as well

      Higher Saturn gravity = less mass in rings, because we already know the total gravity of both - ok got that.

      Fast spinning matter (mass of gas in atmosphere) affecting Gravity - It's possible Cassini was measuring accurately enough to take relativistic gravity effects into account?

      1. LeeE Silver badge

        Re: I had [to] think about this as well

        I struggled to make sense of it too.

        "The resulting motion of the probe suggested Saturn’s gravitational field was much higher than expected..."

        The range of gravity is infinite, so does 'higher' here mean greater? But we would 'expect' the mass of Saturn to be what we've calculated it to be from data obtained by observation. If Saturn's gravity turned out to be much greater than we "expected" (calculated) then surprise would not be an adequate term to express our reaction and we would have to resort to astonishment.

        "... and this field is affected by how fast its internal matter spins..."

        This could refer to relativistic frame-dragging but I doubt it because a little later on we get:

        "And it turned out to be pretty impressive winds."

        So what I think the article is trying to say is that when you combine a 9000km deep atmosphere with strong winds it can result in transient/variable mass-concentrations (MassCons) of sufficient magnitude that they may have an influence on the stability of the ring system.

    3. W.S.Gosset Bronze badge

      ↑ spin, ↑ gravity

      No, old well-known feature of reality. Used to modify various spaceprobes' slingshot orbits/trajectories. You can find on t'interweb piccies of the sharp differences in outcome from probe approaching a planet pro-spin vs contra-spin. I can remember a 80s/90s article in New Scientist (back before it got hijacked by the PC SJW AGW brigade and still reported science rather than preached VirtueDisplay memes), wherein a decade or more's worth of extrapolation on the concept had pointed out that you can precisely create everything we see as a black hole, by simply spinning something quickly.

      Quick example just on the light front: get a bose-einstein condensate within which the speed of light is about 4mph, swirl it at walking speed : ta da! No light getting into the vortex can escape. Black hole for light.

      Turns out, according to the maths the gravity field's about the same. Pop up some serious mass (eg star), spin it ridonkulously farrrrrst, hey presto: black hole for physical lumps.

      To put it another way, in case you're thinking "who cares":

      dark matter "exists" theoretically as a fudgefactor to explain why galaxies aren't flying apart. (same as the Big Bang exists theoretically as the reverse extrapolation of insisting light doesn't lose energy with propagation/distance unlike every other waveform ever studied)

      How about if that extra "missing" gravity, arose from the various epicentral stars spinning?

      Boff!, as our French germans would say (obscure english pun, there): no dark matter, let alone dark energy.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Velocity vs magnetism

        In massless-resonant field model, you have an oscillation in resonance. All matter all light is trying to reach resonance in this field. It's all oscillation, and kicking each other to reach some settled frequency F.

        Perfect resonance occurs at zero, C, 2C....

        Suppose resonance at a particular point is vertical up-down, and the ideal oscillation is up down in the Y axis.

        At zero velocity, you could put the oscillation in that slot and it would cancel it and be in perfect resonance.

        At max C (i.e. 1W per oscillation, where W is the resonant wavelength), it would also be at perfect resonance, it just happens to move one wavelength along each time to achieve it.

        Velocity is spin...

        Velocity isn't driven by 'momentum', some magic property of mass, rather its driven by conservation of energy in oscillation.

        If I push a component of that oscillation into the X axis (e.g. 10% of W), then it can process across the field at W/10 per spin, a tenth of the speed of light, but it also rotates around the X-Y plane, so its oscillation is now faster (wavelength is now 9/10W, frequency is faster to match). It's trying to keep resonance. As long as I don't add or remove energy, it can process at the same rate across the field.

        For light, the nearest procession is C, for matter its zero, the difference between the stuff that makes up matter and the stuff that makes up light is just the velocity component.

        Magnetism is heat is two axis oscillation

        If I pushed a component into the X and into the Z axis, now we have two oscillations. Velocity is between the two XY and ZY planes. It's in the direction that keeps it closest to resonance, and we have a residual oscillation across velocity, which is magnetism and heat. Magnetic field = sum of these oscillations, heat = sum of magnitude of these oscillations.

        All those jiggles you see in Brownian motion are not *collisions* (these things are infinitely small, how could they collide), they're not collisions between some magic force you pull out of your ass, rather its the resonant field distorted and oscillation.

        Velocity decrease magnetism and electric force

        The more you push the oscillation into the direction of travel, the faster the velocity, and the less there is in the resonant axis of oscillation and in the side to side oscillation. In other word, the closer to C you go, the less matter binds via oscillation electric, and the less the magnetic field.

        Notice how weak lights electric and magnetic fields are? Notice how little it bends with matter..... that's why.

        Slow it down, and its binding would be stronger (the component along the resonant axis at any given point) and its magnetic field weaker.

        CERN, about your accelerator

        You push a particle with a magnetic field, and the faster it goes the harder it is to accelerate. The effect above means that you are pushing against and ever smaller component, at max C that component would be zero, and you would have to push infinitely hard to accelerate.

        So you think you're making 'mass' and you can prove its mass because of increase momentum when bending it in a magnetic field, but actually the faster it was going, the less magnetic field it had. This is not mass you're making.

        When you smash two of these particles into each other, you are not making some complex particle with huge mass and all the fancy properties the particle has from the 'Standard model'. Think about it, some of those particles are forces, all of them have different magic properties, somehow smashing stuff together makes not just mass from thin air, but these particles with all their magic properties!

        But you never actually detect these giant particles, you only see shrapnel from the collision.

        Damage in your detector and particles that bend little in magnetic field, which you hypothesize must be from "mass".... yet is actually from the velocity.

        You see how ridiculous this all is? Force that are particles, complex forces that are 'particles' a magic array of silly particles, lots and lots of particles, each patching a hole in the standard model. New hole, needs new particle to patch it! All of these particles in exactly the quantity needed to fix the model, and yet supposedly you can create them at will by smashing stuff together.

        So spin affects gravity, well duh!

    4. Dave Lawton

      Higher Gravity ?

      Are we sure that anomalous gravity isn't because it's really Valatare ?

  12. knarf

    Could the see Rings of Uranus ?

    asking for a friend

  13. mr-slappy

    Still Cracks Me Up

    | there was some process on the planet that the scientists failed to account for. And it turned out to be pretty impressive winds

    "And will this wind... be so mighty... as to lay low... the mountains of the Earth?"

    https://youtu.be/-hJQ18S6aag

    (apologies if the URL is wrong, I typed it in by hand)

  14. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "it turned out to be pretty impressive winds"

    Sounds painful.

  15. bombastic bob Silver badge
    Coat

    rude ring joke

    A stegosaurus could not see the rings around Saturn with a telescope, but with a MICROscope he could see rings around Uranus!

    (sorry, U-rectum)

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