The Lord of the Rings
№1 2007. NationalExportToday
Is the role of superconductivity in the origins of the rings of Saturn a mad theory or a Nobel Prize winner and a breakthrough of the humankind toward mastering the mysteries of the outer space?
Expensive experiments are carried out, tons of metal and devices are launched into the outer space and billions of dollars are spent. What for? To understand the world around and to learn to use it for human benefits. Many things Galileo, Maxwell, Tsiolkovsky, Chizhevsky and Korolyov dreamed about come true today. But there are still very many riddles and unsolved problems. The mystery of the rings of Saturn is one of them. All admire this most beautiful phenomenon of the Solar system, yet its riddle has remained unsolved for four hundred years already and it thrills not just astronomers alone. All inhabitants of Planet Earth wish to know how the rings took shape and how Saturn became their lord.
Cassini Mission is trying to reveal the secrets of this phenomenon. It is the most ambitious unmanned space research project of the NASA. Its total cost is approximately USD 4.5 billion. The probe sent toward Saturn in 1997, is to study the system of Saturn from 2004 through 2008.
The existing theory of the rings emerging from fragments of an asteroid that came close to the planet, which was considered universally accepted before the flight of Cassini, is crumbling away thanks to the phenomena newly found in the rings today. This is understandable, as the old theory in the absence of a digestible and physically comprehensible explanation contains some mystical basis the way it is done in science fiction novels. Cassini has already discovered millions of large ice formations in the rings (they have been called moons) and new rings, - but how to explain all these? It turns out one can do this, if one accepts a new theory of formation of the rings proposed by Russian physicists who studied the problem of the rings' origin for 20 years under the guidance of Doctor of Physics and mathematics Vladimir Viktorovich Cherny.
Undoubtedly, the rings of Saturn are most beautiful natural creations. Since its discovery in 1610 by G. Galileo of Italy they have been attracting scientists' attention and enjoying great popularity. The logotypes of the rings are widely used in business and advertisement. Thousands of articles have been written about them and tens of billions of dollars have been spent to study them. However, the problem of the origins of the rings of Saturn is still unsolved. Articles in the Science, 2005, volume 307, #5713, pp.1222-1356, state this fact, for example, where the data provided by today's NASA mission to Saturn - Cassini-Huygens (2004-2008).
In 1859 British physicist J.C.Maxwell, the founder of electromagnetism, proved that the rings consisted of an infinite number of separated particles. Otherwise they would have been destroyed. To tell the truth, he assumed the rings were to fall down on the planet with the passage of time, but surprisingly they still exist.
The rings are believed to emerge from debris of an asteroid that approached Saturn and was disintegrated by gravitational and centrifugal forces. Obviously this theory contains some mystical argument, though some managed to describe such approach too by using the rich set of mathematical tools. According to another opinion, the rings could emerge from particles of a protoplanetary cloud surrounding the planet. By the way, the cloud could also be filled up by residue of destroyed celestial bodies approaching Saturn in the process. Gravitational, magnetohydrodynamicand plasma effects bear Saturn were thoroughly studied, but no explanation of the stable long-term existence of the rings and the fundamental properties of their particles was obtained. All theories were of an uncoordinated nature. Up till now it remained unclear how the disk sombrero of Saturn consisting of rings and gaps could emerge from a protoplanetary cloud at the planet's equator.
At the same time electromagnetic interactions are known to be very important in the Solar system and particularly for Saturn. K.Tsiolkovsky, L.Chizhevsky, H.Al'ven and other scientists pointed this out in their works. As the particles of the rings do not stick together, V.V. Tchernyi and A.Yu. Pospelov, speaking at an international conference in 1994, put forward a hypothesis of possible superconductivity of the ice particles of the rings. This is principally possible, because they are warmed by the Sun weakly and have been retaining their temperature of about 70-100 degrees Kelvin for a long time already. Such assumption is also based on the fact that in laboratories they have already produced a wide spectrum of frozen multi-component substances possessing high-temperature superconductivity discovered in 1986. Physicists in Ural experimentally demonstrated in a laboratory in the very same 1986 that ice could possess superconductivity at lower temperatures and high pressures. Ice is a complex formation, of course. A huge number of its modifications exist on Earth. Yet, the knowledge about outer space ice is very limited.
In physical terms, the ring particle superconductivity means that the particles push the inner magnetic field out, while the magnetic field between the particles pushes them apart and they don't stick together. Meisner and Oxenfeld discovered the effect of magnetic field being pushed out of a superconductor in 1933.
The specificity of the proposed theory that the rings of Saturn came into being due to the existence of superconductive properties of the ring particles lies in the fact that it does not reject the previously obtained knowledge, but augments it with newly discovered physical effects, integrates this knowledge and allows to get a physically real picture and to answer the question - How did the rings emerge? Besides, the gravitational, hydrodynamic and plasma interactions do not become subject to decomposition, but are just augmented with the properties of behavior of superconductive particles in the heterogeneous magnetic field of Saturn.
The scenario of the origination of the disk system of the rings of Saturn looks as follows. Before the planet acquires its magnetic field the particles move within the protoplanetary field around the planet at different orbits according to Kepler laws, with the force of gravitation balanced by the centrifugal force. With the appearance of the planet's magnetic field the superconductivity of the particles starts "to work" and they interact with the magnetic field. As the electrodynamic analysis shows, the superconductive particles of the protoplanetary cloud display ideal magnetism and, obtaining an additional azimuth-orbital movement, drift to the plane of the magnetic equator, forming disk sombrero. This takes place because in the magnetic equator plane, which in Saturn practically coincides with the geographic equator, the particles possess the lowest magnetic energy. The huge magnetic moment of Saturn that is 500 times greater than that of Earth plays the major role here. Hence it follows that some maybe very long time after the activation of the planet's magnetic field it was energy-wise beneficial for the superconductive particles of the protoplanetary cloud to concentrate in the magnetic equator plane.
The formation of the ring-like structure of the disk resembling a gramophone record occurs similar to metal particles creating the areas of thickening and rarefaction in the heterogeneous field of a magnet. The magnetic field of Saturn in the ring disk plane is not homogeneous, as each superconductive particle ejects the magnetic field out of its volume, according to Meisner-Oxenfeld effect. The force lines of the magnetic field strive toward circuitry through the areas with the highest magnetic field. The compressions of the magnetic flow clear the gaps in the ring disk, disperse the superconductive particles and form separate structures that look like rings. The density of magnetic field in the ring will be lower than in the space of gaps surrounding it. The difference of the magnetic field densities on the borders of the rings cause magnetic pressure directed inside the ring and therefore the edges of the rings look sharp.
The formation of the specific picture of rings and gaps is affected by the influence of gravitational effects that are called orbital resonances, caused by the presence of Saturn's satellites, as well as due to big fragments and moons in the rings, that emerged as a result pf collisions and sticking together before the appearance of the magnetic field of the planet.
The electromagnetic model of a possible role of the superconductivity of the ring particles in the formation of the system of the rings, proposed by the authors, surprisingly can explain many experimental data of land-based tests and NASA space probes Pioneer, Voyager 1 and 2 and Cassini-Huygens. Here it becomes clear why the particles of the rings do not stick together; why the rings exist only around the planets behind the belt of asteroids where the temperature is favorable to the acquisition of superconductive properties by substances; why the reflection of circular polarization microwaves from the rings occurs as if from a superconductor that is a magnetic mirror; why there is a broad-band discrete non-polarized radio-emission in the range of 20.4 kHz through 40.2 MHz, which can be explained by non-stationary Josefson effect for superconductors; why an anomalous behavior of the dependence of the thermal emission of the rings in the range from 10 mcm through 1 cm is observed, which is also characteristic of superconductors; why there is an atmosphere of "unknown" origin near about the rings, which can be explained by diamagnetic expulsion of gas molecules due to the molecular magnetic moments induced in the superconductive particles; why waves of density and waves of bending exist in the rings, which can be explained as a generation of parametric oscillations by ponderomotoric forces emerging in the situation the outer magnetic field directed in tangent toward the free surface of a group of the superconductive particles and in traverse to the direct phase lines. It is clear also that the planets between the Sun and the belt of asteroids cannot have rings, because this space is well warmed by the Sun and the temperature destroys the superconductivity. Rings can exist only around magnetic field-possessing planets behind the belt of asteroids and their appearance depends on the specifics of the substance of a protoplanetary cloud as well as physical and especially electromagnetic parameters of a planet.
A consequence of the proposed theory of the origins and formation of the rings of Saturn is the fact that some unified picture of electromagnetic interactions in the solar system takes shape, which makes it possible to confirm H.Al'ven's opinion that the history of the origins of the Solar system at the earlier (cold) stage of its development might lie in the very process of origination and emergence of the rings of Saturn. It is obvious also that a new direction for the studies of superconductivity of matter behind the belt of asteroids and in the outer space has come into being.
Further research will show whether this theory is just a model or it will become real (and if Nobel Prize will be there?!). It is important that the very idea of superconductivity of the particles of the rings looks anew and attracts interest. Also it is good that the new theory of the origins of the rings of Saturn does not force other authors into abandoning the studies already conducted, but augments them and even unifies them, revealing a possible nature of the planetary rings' origins.