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Solving the mystery of Iapetus

  1. May 2, 2005 #1

    wolram

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    http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/astro-ph/pdf/0504/0504653.pdf

    Title: Solving the mystery of Iapetus
    Authors: Paulo C. C. Freire
    Comments: Submitted to Journal of Geophysical Research - Planets

    Since the discovery of Iapetus by G. D. Cassini, in 1672, it has been known that the leading hemisphere of this Saturnian satellite is one order of magnitude darker than the trailing hemisphere. Since the Cassini spacecraft entered the Saturnian orbit, several high-quality images of the dark hemisphere of Iapetus have been obtained, in particular during the Dec 31 2004 flyby of this satellite. These images revealed the presence of a large equatorial ridge in the dark hemisphere of Iapetus. We propose that this ridge and the dark coating of the hemisphere on which it lies are intimately interlinked and are the result of a collision with the edge of a primordial Saturnian ring, ultimately caused by a sudden change in the orbit of Iapetus. The model naturally explains all of the the unique features of this satellite; it is probably the solution to one of the oldest mysteries in solar system astronomy.

    This paper discuses some of the possibilities for Iapetus orbit change
    and its collision with saturns rings, but did saturn have more rings in one stage of its evolution?
     
    Last edited: May 2, 2005
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  3. May 2, 2005 #2

    Garth

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    The rings of Saturn may not be permanent but erode through tidal, diffusion (collision) and Poynting-Robertson effects. Therefore the planet may well have had more rings in the past.

    Garth
     
    Last edited: May 2, 2005
  4. May 2, 2005 #3

    wolram

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    Thanks Garth, How long would it take for a ring large enough to cause
    these effects to disappear?
     
  5. May 3, 2005 #4

    Garth

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    How long is a piece of string? It depends on the perturbations that a ring suffers, in this case the most significant perturbation would be the collision with Iapetus!

    Garth
     
    Last edited: May 3, 2005
  6. May 3, 2005 #5

    wolram

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    Garth.
    How long is a piece of string? It depends on the perturbations that a ring suffers, in this case the most significant perturbation would be the collision with Iapetus!

    Yes silly question, It would have been an amazing sight though," if it were
    observable from earth", and we were around.
     
  7. May 3, 2005 #6

    Garth

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    No not a silly question, just a rather ill determined one.

    The default position would be to say the rings were formed as leftovers when the whole Saturnian (?) system was formed. They would therefore have a lifetime of greater than 5 billion years or so. However they are known to leak downwards into Saturn's atmosphere and outwards into the satellites' region.

    It might be that we are seeing the system at an special time, say relatively soon after a satellite broke up through tidal forces, and normally the system looks like that of Uranus.

    However it is normally assumed that that is not so and the rings are long lasting, but exactly how long is open to debate.

    Garth
     
  8. May 3, 2005 #7

    wolram

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    You are very gracious Garth, the evolution of our solar system may be
    a model, admittedly micro, but possibly macro, that demonstrates that
    an almost insignificant event can alter the system.
     
  9. May 9, 2005 #8
    One-face moon

    Moons interior to Iapetus' current position rotate. Iapetus is currently tide-locked. Why? The model requires four sequential unlikelihoods:

    1) Iapetus was an interior moon for at least long enough for its rotation to synchronize with its revolution.

    2) Its orbital inclination was 0 deg.

    3) Something moved it into the path of the ring, or vice-versa, while maintaining Conditions 1 and 2, to provide the narrowly-defined ridge.

    3) Something moved it outside tide-locking range while maintaining the tide-lock and shifting the orbital inclination by 7 deg.

    I ain't buyin' it. Steve
     
  10. May 14, 2005 #9

    Nereid

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    Huh?

    ALL Saturn's regular satellites (except Hyperion) are tide-locked!

    (Or are you making a quite different point?)
     
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