Sunday, August 13, 2017

On Saturn

"For the rings, as had been known since the nineteenth century, were not solid: that was a mechanical impossibility. They consisted of countless myriads of fragments—perhaps the remains of a moon that had come too close and had been torn to pieces by the great planet’s tidal pull. Whatever their origin, the human race was fortunate to have seen such a wonder; it could exist for only a brief moment of time in the history of the Solar System.

As long ago as 1945, a British astronomer had pointed out that the rings were ephemeral; gravitational forceswere at work which would soon destroy them. Taking this argument backward in time, it therefore followed that they had been created only recently—a mere two or three million years ago.

But no one had ever given the slightest thought to the curious coincidence that the rings of Saturn had been born at the same time as the human race."
-Arthur C. Clarke, "2001"

Behold, Cassini and 44 hours of Saturn.

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