Space.com has a story on waves of disturbance in Saturn’s rings which indicate an interior rhythmic disturbance. Earth gets a mention too. The fact that this is described as a ‘hum’ is very encouraging, as it was the title of my first paper, suppressed by some IPCC lead authors, when they got Copernicus, the innovative science unpublishers ™ to shut down Pattern Recognition in Physics, the journal which published our special edition on solar system dynamics.
Unusual ripples in Saturn’s rings are revealing the mysterious inner workings of the great gas giant. Planetary scientists and modelers are slowly picking apart that mystery.
Billions of particles race around Saturn’s 170,000-mile-wide (273,600 kilometers) set of rings, which are mostly water ice with a smattering of rock. The rings are full of activity, including waves that ricochet outward in spiral patterns, most caused by the gravitational pull of Saturn’s 62 moons. Waves caused by the moons, which orbit outside the rings’ sphere, always travel outward.
But then there’s a set of waves heading inward. That means there’s something moving inside, too. [Video: Fly Through Space ‘In Saturn’s Rings’]
Most scientists’ models of Saturn and other gas giants assume the planet is pretty uniform — just a large gas envelope surrounding a small, dense core that’s perhaps the size of Earth. But by studying the rings’ waves, researchers are finding the picture much more complicated.
“The one thing that might produce this [series of waves] is that some sort of disturbance inside Saturn itself is spinning around with a period that’s less than 7 hours,” Phillip Nicholson, a planetary scientist at Cornell University in New York, told Space.com. Researchers first noticed hints of that disturbance in the 1990s, and Nicholson’s team used more precise measurements to fully document the ring waves’ structures, which reflect the oscillations of the planet within — sort of like recurring Saturn quakes.
Right now, measuring those oscillations offers scientists the best possible chance to grasp what’s going on far inside the planet, like Saturn’s internal rotation or structure, which appears to be more complicated than previously thought, scientists say.
“Even dropping a probe into the atmosphere would not necessarily help a lot, because the probe will only get down to a pressure of five or 10 atmospheres before it gets cooked or squashed,” Nicholson said. “We need to go much deeper to understand this.”
Everything is ringing
Saturn isn’t the only astronomical body with a groove; for many years, researchers have been watching the vibrations of the sun and other stars. Even Earth has a hum, and scientists use whole-Earth oscillations, triggered by large earthquakes, to discern what’s going on inside.
“The basic idea is that we know of many stars, including our own sun, that oscillate at certain frequencies that are determined by the actual internal structure of the planet or the star,” Jim Fuller, a researcher at the California Institute of Technology, told Space.com. Fuller studies and models those oscillations, including those in Saturn, building off of initial work by Nicholson and his collaborator Matthew Hedman, now at the University of Idaho.
Full Story at first link in intro above.