Saturn’s F-ring and the making of UFO propaganda

A mosaic of Cassini images of Saturn and rings. The halo effect is due to the sun in eclipse behind the 6th planet. Click for more info on the rings. Image credit NASA/JPL

It’s not often we get a fortuitous example of how the UFO-conspiracy crowd manufactures their BS. … OK, maybe it happens all the time! But an absolutely must see time elapsed video put together by the Cassini-Equinox team provides just such an opportunity. Below is that same video together with some background, culminating in the UFO nonsense.

Saturn's F-ring, isolated and enhanced for clarity courtesy of NASA/JPL/Cassini. Click image to re-rebigulate

When I was growing up, Saturn’s rings were thought to consist of three main parts, A, B, and C. Pioneer and the Voyagers put an end to that! We now know the ring system is composed of hundreds of individual ringlets resembling grooves on a phonograph under medium magnification. Embedded throughout the vista are all kinds of puzzles of physics. There are spokes and fluted edges, braided streamers and knots, some regular or semi-permanent, others appearing only once never to be seen again.

Much of this has been captured on video before thanks to Cassini. Recently, the team put together a fantastic montage with commentary of the exquisite dynamics playing out a billion miles away around the solar system’s celebrity planet. The video was kindly formatted on YouTube by Phobosuchus1 below. If you’re so inclined, by all means feel free to take a moment to thank him or her for that gift!

These tiny shepard moons were inferred before they were confirmed. But no one dreamed how many there were! To date hundreds of them have been discovered. Each a tiny, lumpy icy ball, some smaller than a kilometer across, dragging and sculpting the glittering ring material like patient artists working on a cosmic canvas. How they came to exist so near the chaos, alternately stressed by Saturn’s gravity and pummelled by their brethren, is still a matter of some debate.

Now for the bullshit: UFO nuts take footage like this, or of Mars, or off trash can lids strung between telephone poles, modify it, and present it to the public as inexplicable and therefore proof of alien spaceships.

So, aliens traveled across light-years to … circle Saturn for eons playing in the ring system. No doubt that would be fun, but it’s hard to imagine any other incentive. More importantly, why waste perfectly good vlogger skills on crap like this? There is enough beauty and mystery in the universe without adding transparent nonsense to the mix.


  1. gratch says

    Great. Now I can look forward to a week of my co-worker telling me all about the new “evidence” he’s discovered on Youtube.

  2. says

    It must be true and a cover up MUST be taking place, because when I tried to play the UFO video “An error occurred. Please try again later.” By then, of course, the coverup-ers will have doctored the video to look… um… doctored.
    And we all know that ‘DarkSyde*’ is in on it, but now he seems to have gone rogue. So how long will he survive?
    * Ha! with a code name like that how could he not??

  3. blindrobin says

    These must be the same aliens that my brother said used to put all the scratches in my LP’s. He swore it wasn’t him, and my brother would never have lied about a thing like that. Right ?

  4. StevoR says

    That top image is my all time favourite astronomical one.

    From memory it has Earth inside or very near the rings too.

    So, does that make our planet a UFO?

    That this wonderful, magnificent astronomical image(s) brought to us by such superb technology and such clever people gets smirched by asociation with such clueless, tawdry, conspiracy theory rubbish. Yeesh.

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