October 5, 2019 | David F. Coppedge

News for Saturn-Day

This entry scours some of the latest papers from Cassini for statements about the age of Saturn and its rings and inner moons.

Ever since Science Magazine‘s June 14 issue on Cassini, additional news about the ringed planet and its moons has trickled in. Here we digest findings of interest to creationists and other Darwin skeptics.

The origin of Saturn’s rings and moons (Science). This Perspective article by Shigeru Ida gives an overview of the June 14, 2019 special issue about Cassini. Notice what is young out there. The shocking findings of youth are stated as if this is not a problem for the moyboys.

  • Rings: “The results strongly suggest that Saturn’s rings are much younger than Saturn itself and provide important clues to the origin of the rings and moons…. “the Cassini observations suggest that the rings are comparatively young.” They toss out dates of 10 million to 100 million years, but those are upper limits. Notice that 100 million years is only 1/45th the assumed age of the Saturn system. What was going on for the other 44/45ths of the time? Did rings just pop into existence when humans became available to see them?
  • Mimas: “This could also account for the high crater density on Mimas’s surface, even if Mimas is young.” In a discussion of alternative models for the rings and moons, this statement indicates that Mimas could have acquired numerous craters relatively quickly even if it is young.
  • Ring/Moon interactions: Modeling a collision as the origin of the rings suffers from the “low probability of an encounter with a Kuiper Belt object less than 2 billion years ago.” Trust the experts. They’ll think of something. “A clear answer to the long-standing question of when and how Saturn’s rings formed has not yet been obtained, but the Cassini data provide important pieces of the puzzle.

Close-range remote sensing of Saturn’s rings during Cassini’s ring-grazing orbits and Grand Finale (Science). Observations of small moons near the rings also indicate youth. “Together, these results show that Saturn’s rings are substantially younger than the planet itself and constrain models of their origin.

Close Cassini flybys of Saturn’s ring moons Pan, Daphnis, Atlas, Pandora, and Epimetheus (Science). ” We find that the optical properties of the moons’ surfaces are determined by two competing processes: contamination by a red material formed in Saturn’s main ring system and accretion of bright icy particles or water vapor from volcanic plumes originating on the moon Enceladus.” But has Enceladus been spouting like this for billions of years?

Measurement and implications of Saturn’s gravity field and ring mass (Science). The moyboys simply refuse to give up their billions of years. To keep them, they have to invoke miracles of chance:

The low value of the ring mass suggests a scenario where the present rings of Saturn are young, probably just 10 million to 100 million years old, to be consistent with their pristine icy composition. Nevertheless, the rings may have evolved substantially since their formation and were perhaps once more massive than they are today. Models for a young ring system invoke the chance capture and tidal disruption of a comet or an icy outer Solar System body, suggesting that catastrophic events continued to occur in the Solar System long after its formation 4.6 billion years ago.

And yet the earlier paper said that collisions with objects from the outer solar system were highly unlikely in the last 2 billion years. The conundrum forces the moyboys to concoct a scenario where a miracle occurred after 44/45ths of the assumed age of Saturn had transpired before the rings formed!

A Persistent, Large‐Scale, and Ordered Electrodynamic Connection Between Saturn and Its Main Rings (Geophysical Research Letters, June 28). At first glance, it would seem that an electrical connection between the rings and Saturn is bound to be a disruptive influence degrading the rings, not maintaining them. “Here we provide strong evidence for the persistent and organized presence of auroral hiss demonstrably associated with the main rings. This is in contrast to recent observations suggesting that Saturn’s rings may be barriers to field‐aligned currents.”

Cassini’s Final Year at Saturn: Science Highlights and Discoveries (Geophysical Research Letters, June 3). Hidden within the comments made by Linda Spilker, Cassini Project Scientist, are indications that all is not well with consensus theories of the solar system. Did the world’s expert planetary scientists predict what they found? Listen to what she says:

Findings made by the Cassini spacecraft and Huygens probe significantly altered our views of this outer planet system and in some cases challenged long‐held theories. Cassini explored these worlds up close, returning images that are beautiful as well as data that are scientifically priceless…. New discoveries examined in this issue include tiny ring particles with complex hydrocarbons streaming into Saturn’s atmosphere, methane from the rings feeding Saturn’s upper atmosphere, electric currents flowing between Saturn and its rings, and a new inner radiation belt. Saturn gravity and magnetic field measurements detected deep winds and differential rotation in its upper layers. Results from Cassini’s final orbits turned out to be more interesting than we could have imagined. Understanding the interior of Saturn and the interplay between the rings and planet will provide insights into how our solar system formed and evolved and the role of gas giant planets in exoplanet systems.

Diagram of Saturn's E-ring created by Enceladus

Diagram of Saturn’s E-ring created by Enceladus

Layman Articles and Press Releases about Saturn and its Rings

NASA’s Cassini Reveals New Sculpting in Saturn Rings (JPL, June 13). The press release shows detailed images of the rings during the Grand Finale high dive orbits. “Findings include fine details of features sculpted by masses embedded within the rings. Textures and patterns, from clumpy to strawlike, pop out of the images, raising questions about the interactions that shaped them.” Ringmaster Jeff Cuzzi comments, “We are just settling into the next phase, which is building new, detailed models of ring evolution – including the new revelation from Cassini data that the rings are much younger than Saturn.

Yes, Saturn’s Rings Are Awesome — NASA’s Cassini Showed Us Just HOW Awesome (Space.com). “A lot of the structure, we don’t understand what maintains it over the long term,” admits Cassini project scientist Linda Spilker.

A brief astronomical history of Saturn’s amazing rings (The Conversation, Aug 14). Vahe Peroomian (USC) comments, “Saturn’s rings are extremely bright and dust-free, seeming to indicate that they formed anywhere from 10 to 100 million years ago, if astronomers’ understanding of how icy particles gather dust is correct.” To see how shocking this is, imagine a rope 45 feet long representing the age of the solar system. A hundred million years ago would represent just one foot at the end of the rope.

Wind mystery inside gas giant Saturn begins to unravel (Phys.org). “A new study argues that Saturn’s interior flows like honey due to its magnetic field, which may help solve the mystery of why the planet’s powerful winds stop 8,500 km inside the giant gas planet.” This article does not concern long ages, but it should be noted that Saturn’s magnetic field falsified the consensus dynamo model. Saturn’s spin axis is almost perfectly aligned with its magnetic axis — a situation which cannot exist according to theory, because an offset is required to power the dynamo.

Saturn and its rings as seen by Cassini, April 25, 2016.

Can Scientists Rescue Long Ages?

Saturn’s icy rings are as old as the solar system itself, study suggests (Science Daily). “No one knows for certain when Saturn’s iconic rings formed,” this article begins, but the rescue device for long ages may create more problems than it solves. To get around the cleanliness of the ring particles (which should have gotten dirty over billions of years), a couple of scientists at SwRI (Southwest Research Institute) note that “the rings are constantly losing matter to Saturn.” OK, well: wouldn’t that destroy the rings over billions of years? They continue, “The process, which is largely a mystery, could very well be “cleaning” the ice of the rings and making them brighter over time.” But why would that be the case? Scientists have long thought they would get dirty from space debris, not brighter. Why invoke a new “mystery” to get around clear observations of contamination by micrometeoroids and space dust?

Saturn’s Rings May Be Ancient After All (Space.com). Bombardment by micrometeoroids should make the rings darker over time. In this version of the rescue device, the SwRI group engages in special pleading. “For starters, the bombardment rate may vary over time, they suggest without evidence. “Maybe it’s unusually high right now — due to a (hypothetical) recent collision of distant Kuiper Belt objects, for example — and the rings were polluted much less intensely for most of their history.” With only flimsy evidence of organic molecules drifting from the rings into Saturn, they speculate, “One possible explanation is that the (unknown) process responsible for the erosion of the rings and the launch of these nanograins is actually ‘cleaning’ the rings, preferentially removing silicates rather than water ice,” the storytellers say, making the rings appear younger than they actually are.

Bias Revealed

One of them reveals his reason for trying to rescue the old age of the rings. “I have to admit that I am biased, because I like very much the model of satellite formation from rings (I contributed to develop it), and I would be annoyed if it [were] proven impossible,” he told Space.com via email.

Another source of bias is the desire to keep Enceladus old, so that the emergence of life would not be ruled out by a young age.

Nailing down the rings’ age is important for a variety of reasons, he and others have stressed. For starters, if the rings are young, then most of Saturn’s icy moons may be as well — including geyser-spewing Enceladus, which hosts a big ocean of salty water beneath its frigid shell.

Enceladus is widely viewed as one of the solar system’s best bets to harbor alien life, and the chances are much better in this regard if life has had 4.5 billion years to get going there rather than 100 million. (Another potentially life-hosting Saturn moon, the giant Titan, is widely regarded as ancient.)

We will revisit Titan and Enceladus in a future entry, reporting on the latest science about those two fascinating moons. Is Titan really “widely regarded as ancient”? Regarded by whom? Evidence will be revealed to the contrary from secular science papers and articles.

There you have it! Clear bias seen by planetary scientists who cannot stomach the idea that Saturn, its rings, and its moons are young! They need billions of years for evolution to work. They know that 100 million years is far too little time to get life going. Well, guess what. 100 trillion years is far too little time to get life going by chance. It’s not going to happen even in a multiverse. Let’s make the moyboys scream by suggesting that overwhelming evidence indicates the earth and the solar system is only a few thousand years old.



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