October 17th, 2008


The rings of Saturn

When did the idea that the rings of Saturn are made of ice first appear? It doesn't seem to have been around in 1900, because George Griffith's In Saturn's Realm (1900) says

"It's quite evident," said Redgrave, "that those are rings of what we should call meteorites on earth, atoms of matter which Saturn threw off into Space after the satellites were formed ."

"And I shouldn't wonder, if you will excuse my interrupting you," said Zaidie, "if the moons themselves have been made up of a lot of these things going together when they were only gas, or nebula or something of that sort. In fact, when Saturn was a good deal younger than he is now, he may have had a lot more rings and no moons, and now these aerolites, or whatever they are, can't come together and make moons, because they've got too solid."

The idea is certainly there by the 1950s because Asimov's The Martian Way uses it in 1952.

I'm wondering if it was generally accepted in the 1930s when Weinbaum was writing his planetary stories.