Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Saturn's Rings to Disappear!

Tim Sayell sends in an article from Yahoo News that proves that just when you think you have things figured out, the Universe throws in a curve.

I did not know that Saturn's rings disappear! It's true and it's one of those things that you say to yourself...damn I should have known that! DUH!

Here is how it works. We know Saturn's rings are mostly made up of stuff that reflects light. Now the rings are truly odd creatures. The are 170,000 miles wide but only 30 FEET thick. Why is that important? Well consider, at 170,000 miles wide, they can reflect a serious amount of sunlight as long as they are at right angles to the sunlight. But at 30 feet thick, were there ever a time in Saturn's 29.7 year orbit around the sun that the rings are edge on, they would reflect almost no light. Well guess what, Saturn has an inclination (Like Earth's that causes the seasons) and so every 15 years Saturn's rings present themselves edge on and effectly disappear!

When will it happen? Well it starts August 11th when the rings will appear to fade until they are for all intents invisible and reappear by September 28.

Read more here from the article that Tim sent in

There is quite a lot more about some of the science that will be going on throughout this process by NASA's Cassini spacecraft and some interesting science info.

Thanks Tim!

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