[ Posted : 07.01.04 ]

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How the New Saturn Rotation
Rate Saved the Cassini Mission

By Richard C. Hoagland
© 2004 The Enterprise Mission

Just as we were going to press, some vital new information was released from NASA-JPL regarding its imminent Cassini Saturn Mission..  This new information directly impacts on a number of facts and their discussion presented in the preceding paper.

Based on radio astronomy observations conducted between April 29, 2003 and June 10, 2004 (well over a year …) by the Cassini Radio and Plasma Wave Science Instrument, NASA has just announced (June 28, 2004) a new period for Saturn’s internal rotation:

10 hours, 45 minutes, 45 seconds (with a formal error of “plus or minus 36 seconds” …).

The major surprise is that this figure is significantly longer than a similarly-derived “radio period” determined by the Planetary Radio Astronomy (PRA) experiment on the two Voyager spacecraft, which flew by Saturn only nine months apart almost a quarter century ago.  That period was 10 hours, 39 minutes, 24 seconds … with a formal error of “plus or minus 7 seconds.” 

Among the “major changes” we’ve been watching in the Saturn system recently, this belated new admission – less than two days away from Cassini’s Orbital Insertion around Saturn – must rank as the most significant change.  Altering the “day length” of a major planet – in this case, of the second most massive planet in the solar system -- even by six minutes (only about one percent), is not a “trivial” change.  But, scientists associated with the Cassini Project seem totally baffled by this alteration ... which may explain some of the hesitancy in its announcement.

University of Iowa Space Physicist Don Gurnett (below), head of the team that is analyzing these radio emissions, said June 28th:


“Although Saturn's radio rotation period has clearly shifted by a substantial amount over the 24 years since the Voyager measurements, I don't think any of us could conceive of any process that would cause the rotation of the entire planet to actually slow down.  So it appears that there is some kind of slippage between the deepinterior of the planet and the magnetic field, which controls the charged particles responsible for the radio emission[emphasis added]."

The key here is his revealing comment, “I don’t think any of us could conceive of any process that would cause the rotation of an entire planet to slow down ….”  Obviously, Gurnett is forgetting about this one – the Earth.

Since 1972, there have been two timekeeping methods for keeping track of Earth’s “day” – the usual one, astronomically measuring the Earth’s rotation relative to distant background objects in the Universe (stars, quasars, radio galaxies, etc.); and a newer one, via the very precise energy exchanges occurring within cesium and hydrogen atoms, so-called “atomic clocks.” 

But, soon after atomic clocks were compared with Earth’s astronomical rotation, it was noticed that the Earth was -- mysteriously – slowing down ….

According to the US Naval Observatory:

"In order to keep the cumulative difference in UT1-UTC less than 0.9 seconds), a leap second is added to the atomic time to decrease the difference between the two. This leap second can be either positive or negative depending on the Earth's rotation. Since the first leap second in 1972, all leap seconds have been positive (click here for a list of all announced leap seconds). This reflects the general slowing trend of the Earth due to tidal braking [emphasis added].”

Since 1972, a total of over 30 “leap seconds” have been added to Earth’s day length (!) – an enormous slowing of the Earth’s rotation in such a brief period of time.  Obviously, Don Gurnett simply did not remember this fundamental fact of life on Earth … or, he wouldn’t have made the statement: “I don’t think any of us could conceive of any process that would cause the rotation of an entire planet to slow down ….”

The Hyperdimensional implications for this new discovery are profound … as are those for the Cassini Mission.

*     *     *

The odds that Cassini will survive its ring plane crossings – despite the pessimistic assessment we published earlier – have suddenly increased …dramatically ... with this puzzling announcement. 

The fact that JPL admits it has known of this rotational change since 1997 (which is when Cassini launched) is very telling.  For, it now explains the formerly “unexplainable”: why NASA would deliberately send Cassini on a trajectory to enter Saturn orbit duplicating the frightening experience of Voyager 2 that night in 1981.  The answer is: Saturn’s ring environment has actually become more benign making those unique close-up observations as Cassini flies just above the Rings actually possible (below) … if barely.

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Here’s why.

Unlike the Earth (whose rotational anomalies are blamed on the tides caused by its one large satellite, the Moon), Saturn’s moons can have no part in this new rotational puzzle – being much too tiny, and much too far way, to have any perceptible slowing gravitational effects on Saturn.  In addition, unmentioned in the latest JPL announcement, is a reiteration of the other major “rotational” puzzle regarding Saturn, also announced almost exactly one year ago this June: the major decrease in the speed of its equatorial winds …. 

From these two (and we believe, related)  rotational anomalies, it is clear – at least, it’s clear to us -- that some fundamental aspect of “planetary rotation and associated angular momentum” must be involved with Saturn’s mysterious “radio slow down” – despite Dr. Gurnett’s opinion.

Saturn has INDEED slowed in its rotation in “only” 24 years ... as Hyperdimensional Theory, given all the other documented changes in the Saturn system, would demand!

What this means for Cassini is just this: according to an empirical relationship first published by Arthur Schuster in the early 20th Century (1912), known as “Schuster’s Law,” an objects’ magnetic field is directly related to its total angular momentum (“spin energy”).  This relationship has been observed to hold from objects across an enormous range of masses and rotations … from stars like the Sun … to planets … to the Milky Way Galaxy itself!

If Saturn’s spin rate in those deep, metallic layers – where Saturn’s magnetic field is initially created – has indeed slowed … then Saturn’s associated magnetic field (from Schuster’s Law) will have decreased as well ….  This, in turn, will have lowered the “Faraday voltage” created by the revolution of the ring particles (and ionized ring plasma) around the planet.  The result will be a decrease – and maybe a dramatic decrease -- in the acceleration of the tiny, ice dust-grains ….

This, then, is the real reason now why Saturn’s spokes have disappeared.

And thus, present a vastly diminished threat for Cassini as it crosses the plane of Saturn’s rings!

If we had had this critical rotational information even a few days ago, we would have written a very different Cassini article on Saturn, focusing more on the long-term Hyperdimensional observations that Cassini can make ... if it survives its double ring plane crossings.  But, for some reason, JPL decided to withhold this fascinating information – including the publication of the original French Saturn rotational anomaly observations in 1997, in an obscure Austrian science journal (!) -- until just hours before Cassini “made the plunge.” 

The (apparently) delicate electrical conditions required to levitate trillions of these tiny particles above the rings and then accelerate them both outward into space and inward into Saturn, have so changed … that in the Cassini approach images, they are now completely missing.  

If this new analysis is accurate, and Cassini does survive its perilous passage through the ring plane – then what it will observe and relay back to Earth in those  critical four hours will be the subject of our next Cassini update.  The continuing 24-year mystery of—

The “Thing in the Rings” ….



Stay tuned.



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