by J.M.McCanney


The recent observation of the absorption of radiation belts in the vicinity of Saturn's bright rings and historical observations of the ring system make the following related results apparent:

  • -The gaps in the rings are caused by the presence of at least 6 small, extremely dense and probably electrically charged 'sweeper' moons which effectively sweep the ring matter clean from the gaps. This is known due to the fading of the inner ring edges whereas the outer edges we well defined. Their orbital periods will differ from the expected Keplerian periods if the moons and Saturn do possess electric fields.
  • - Absorption of radiation belts near the rings (of Jupiter also) implies that the ring particles themselves are not absorbing the radiation but the small moons are. This is consistent with the observed radiation belt absorption near the outer Saturnian moons.
  • -If electric fields of the sweeper moons cause the ring edge fading as observed (and not simply gravitational), than Saturn itself must maintain an electric field in its vicinity by way of a sizeable proton wind to affect the uneven ring edge fading and will be surrounded by an H+ cloud at least to approximately the A-ring. This is consistent with the detection of an H+ cloud surrounding Saturn (Weiser et aL, 1977, p. 755). The other possibility is that these moons are extremely dense and have very huge internal magnetic fields.
  • -Because of their location, these moons must be captured and if very dense as believed, may be core remnants of a nova.
  • 1. Discussion

    The possibility of the existence of small moons orbiting Saturn within the gaps of the bright rings has not received attention other than in passing comments by many investigators. Resonance theorists claim that nothing can exist in the gaps and others believe the rings to be composed of material that could not form a moon 4.5 billion years ago inside Satum's roche limit. Pioneer 11 was unable to confirm the existence of the 'sweeper' moons (except for 1979-S2) because of 'anomalous' data (Filius et al., 1980, P. 425), and no logical explanation for their existence has been previously put forth. Historic observations (Proctor, 1865, pp. 49 and 61-64; Alexander, 1962, pp. 140-141 and 168) show that the bright rings are sharply defined on the outer edges but fade gradually on the inner edges. This fading is uneven only in the B-ring. These observations also have shown that thin divisions have formed in the rings that later disappeared. These sightings have been ignored since no explanation has been put forth. Pioneer Saturn also detected the uneven fading of the rings (Gehrels et al., 1980, p. 436). Voyager's photograph of the Jovian Sulfur ring also showed this same fading of the inner ring edge (Smith et al., 1979a, p. 933, Figure 10) with the outer edge being sharply defined as in the Saturnian rings. Like Saturn's F-ring, the sulfur ring has a small (~ 40 km diameter) moon skirting the outer ridge edge.

    The detection by Earth based radio telescope of an atomic hydrogen cloud surrounding Saturn (Filius et al., 1980; p. 41 5) suggests the presence of a strong proton wind eminating from Saturn. This wind would be similar to the solar wind which seems also to have an excess current of protons. This allows a non-uniform electric field to exist between the negatively charged planet and neutralizing H+ cloud. The total negative charge of the planet would be equal to the combined positive charge in the proton wind and H+ cloud. Unfortunately, it is impossible for Pioneer or Voyager to discern if the origin of certain protons are from Saturn or otherwise, however, there are indirect methods (to be discussed) that will implicate their presence. This suggests that Saturn's atmosphere is operating similar to the solar atmosphere but on a small scale. (This also supports my contention that the solar interior is not one of collapsed hydrogen, but has a large planetary type core since stars and planets alike have their initial formation in the galactic center (McCanney; 1981). I also believe the solar wind supports a similar H+ cloud beyond the orbit of Jupiter and that Saturn passes through this cloud constantly as it orbits the Sun, accounting for Saturn's vast atmosphere and appearing as a small planetary nebula).

    Pioneer Saturn's encounter with 1979-S2 showed it to have a very high mass for its size and a strong magnetic field. There are two possible explanations. One is that the small moon was very massive and possessed a very strong internal magnetic field for its size. It can also be explained as due to a large net charge on the moon. A metal space craft in the non-uniform electric field of the moon would feel a strong induced dipole force (i.e., the induced dipole will always produce an attractive force, indicating to telemetry the presence of a 'large mass'). The high relative velocity between the space craft and the charged moon would also induce the high magnetic field at the space craft. As specific data is not available on 'mass' or magnetic field of this moon, a hypothetical example will illustrate the point. For a cylindrical metal space craft in the non-uniform electric field of a highly charged small moon the ratio of electrical induced dipole force to gravitational force (axis of symmetry of cylinder in the direction of the moon) is given by

    where qo = charge on moon, a = diameter of cylinder = 10 m, Ml = mass of moon 2.2xlO^17kg, M2 = mass of spacecraft = 250kg, r=separation of M1 and M2 = 100km, and ^r = height of cylinder = 2 m. It is found that Fe/Fq = 10 when qo = 300 coul, corresponding to a surface potential of about 100 MeV on a 200 km diameter moon when the moon has an earthlike density. Other evidence exists for the presence of small highly charged objects in interplanetary space, although most investigators would rather find alternate explanations for the phenomena. The surface ring formations found concentric around small impact basins on Calisto (Smith et al., 1979b, p. 970) are examples. They are identical to the patterns made by ferromagnetic filings around a current carrying wire (Halliday and Resnick,1965); note that the rings do not begin for a good distance around the impact basin. The small high impact basin and the concentric surface ring patterns can be explained by the approach and impact of a small highly charged object. This implies that Callisto's surface is probably rich in a ferromagnetic dust which formed ringed patterns in the magnetic field of the high velocity impacting object which was charged as it passed through Jupiter's radiation belts.

    Space craft charging in a hot plasma has been known for some time (DeForest, 1972, p. 651) and remains a possible source of error in Pioneer and Voyager data (Fibus et al., 1980, p. 428). This effect is most noticeable when sunlight is weak as photoelectrons tend to cancel the effect. The complete absence of radiation belts near Saturn's and Jupiter's moons indicates that a similar charging process may occur for a moon passing through a hot plasma with a minimum of reduction due to photoelectrons. A very important point here is that the space craft always charges to a negative potential and thus so would the moons. This is consistent with the inner ring edge fading (i.e., Saturn and the moon must possess the same sign charge as explained below). The mechanism of charging is not well understood, but if one assumes that size is important, and noting that a small space craft can easily charge to 10,000V, extremely high voltages an a small moon would develop. The inclusion of charged bodies in celestial mechanics has not been considered previously. The result is that the charge to mass ratio is the important quantity to consider. Charge to mass ratios typically are in reverse order of mass, that is, an ion's e/m is very high, that of a ring particle is smaller, e/m of a small moon is still smaller and so on, whereas the total charge on each increases with increasing mass. For this reason, the most noticeable effects occur for only the smallest bodies.

    In a previous paper (McCanney, unpublished) the fading of the inner ring edges was explained to be due to the presence of 6 small, very dense 'sweeper' moons which must exist in the gaps. The ring edge fading is caused by an unconsidered effect in celestial mechanics: that the combined force fields of two objects, one more massive (or with greater charge of similar sign) than the other creates a shape in the form of a comet around the smaller object, that is, long on the 'tail' side and short on the head size. It is therefore this combined field that causes the inner ring edges to fade and the outer ring edges to be sharply defined when rotational dynamics are applied (assuming a very massive moon). This same effect was once thought to have caused Jupiter to effectively sweep all the asteroids clear to the orbit of Saturn while allowing them to exist in great numbers in the inside of Jupiter's orbit (See, 1910, p. 193). In the original paper it was assumed that the sweeper moons must be extremely dense because: (1) they have never been observed from Earth, indicating that their diameters must be less than 200 km, and (2) to affect the ring fading to the distances observed (5000 km in the B-ring and 6000 km in the Jovian sulfur ring) the masses would have to be quite high, meaning that the moons would be denser than the heaviest elements known. As this seems unreasonable and for reasons already given, the possibility is raised that these moons maintain a net negative charge as they absorb the radiation belts near the rings. If their orbital periods differ from the expected Keplerian periods, it will be the first concrete evidence of sustained electric fields in the cosmos (that of the moons and of Saturn itself).

    The six predicted moons are as follows:

  • No. 1 lies in the plane of the rings, skirting Saturn's upper atmosphere at closest approach and skirting the inside edge of the crepe ring.
  • No. 2's orbit lies far (>30 degrees) out of the plane of the rings and partially sweeps out the faint crepe ring. This same moon accounts for the observed non-uniform fading on the B-ring edge. (It fades only at two spots on opposite sides of Saturn.) This moon's orbit crosses the plane of the rings where the fading is maximum.
  • No. 3 lies in the Cassini division, skirting the B-ring and inner A-ring edges.
  • No. 4, No. 5 and No. 6 lie in the Encke gap, pioneer gap and at the outer edge of the F-ring, respectively. (No. 6 is 1979-S2).
  • Saturn's ring system must have a renewable source of ring material which provides the steady-state appearance of the rings. This can come either from the H+ nebula or Saturn's atmosphere. As many parameters are unknown, meaningful calculations cannot be performed at this time. (The zodiacal disc may be of a similar nature.)

    Historic observations have indicated that gaps have appeared in the rings which later disappeared (Proctor, 1865, pp. 49 and 61-64). This can now be reconciled with the fact that Saturn is a capturer of the same objects that constitute the small moons (Cline, 1979) and that Saturn has a renewable source of ring material. Such an object passing through Saturn's system could quickly charge and sweep out a single path in the rings that would later refill after the object was gone.

    If the sweeper moons are non-Keplerian (implying a proton wind for Saturn) it will suggest that an asteroid type nucleus moving at high speed through the solar wind will charge also, causing the characteristic comet shape to form around it as + ions are drawn in under forces that can be billions of times stronger than gravitational forces alone. The implications of this model of comet behavior have been worked out completely (McCanney, c) and numerous observed characteristics are easily explained such as I 'wandering', sunward spikes, a shrinkage of the coma as the comet approaches the Sun, curved tails, spiralling of tail material, etc. This model shows the comet to be accumulating matter and ultimately may be captured as a planet, asteroid or moon. The detection of non-Keplerian moons around Saturn will support this model of the comet.

    2. Conclusion

    The existence of at least 6 small dense and/or charged moons are predicted as the sweepers of the Saturnian ring gaps due to historic and recent observations. The detection of non-Keplerian moons in the gaps will imply the existence of a proton wind and associated H+ cloud in the vicinity of Saturn, providing the first evidence that sustained electric fields do exist in the cosmos. The concept of an asteroid-like nucleus moving at high speed through the solar wind (causing the nucleus to charge) as a plausible explanation for comet behavior will be supported by the existence of the predicted sweeper moons, as they exhibit the same characteristics.


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