The video below is a very creative representation of what the day and night sky on Earth would look like if the earth had rings like Saturn. It is well worth a view.
But it puts me in the mind of pondering the delicate balance of life on this earth and, though the artwork in the video is beautiful, I suspect that the presence of rings would dramatically alter life on this earth, perhaps even annihilate it.
By way of disclaimer, let me say I am not a geologist or astronomer. But a number of things concern me about the presence of rings and then cause me, as a Christian and amateur theologian, to once again thank God for the incredible and rare conditions he maintains on this earth, so that we can live. Let me explain.
Rare Earth?? While most people, including most scientists, presume that there may be billions of inhabitable planets out there a lot like earth, there is another theory base (called “rare earth theory”) that is dubious of such a high number.
There are not just a few things that come together to support life on earth, there are many. Here are just a few:
- The earth is at just the right distance from the sun so that water is warm enough to melt, but not so hot as to boil and steam away into space. Water is also able in this habitable zone to both evaporate and condense at lower levels in the atmosphere, thus permitting a more even distribution of water, and a cycle of water over dry land known as precipitation.
- The earth is in a “habitable zone” in the galaxy too. Closer to the center of galaxies, radiation and the presence of wandering planetoids make life there unlikely.
- We have the nearby presence of two “gas giants” (Jupiter and Saturn) that attract and catch many wandering asteroids and comets and keep them form hitting the earth often.
- Our molten core and volcanism generate a magnetic field that protects the earth from the most harmful rays of the sun. Volcanism also has a role in helping generate our atmosphere and in cycling rich minerals widely.
- Our sun is just the right kind of star, putting out a fairly steady amount of energy. Other types of stars are more variable in their output and this variance can utterly destroy life or cause it to be impossible due to the extremes caused.
- The earth’s fairly rapid rotation reduces the daily variation in temperature It also makes photosynthesis viable since there is enough sunlight all over the planet.
- The earth’s axis tilt relative to it orbital plane is also just right to allow seasonal variations that help complex life but not so tilted as to make the seasons too extreme.
- The moon also has a good effect by causing tides that are just enough to permit tidal zones (a great breading ground for diverse life) and not too severe so as to destroy life by extreme tides.
So life here is in the balance of many fascinating things (and a lot more I don’t have time to mention). Just Google “Rare Earth Theory” to read more.
Now, what would rings do to this balance? I suspect a lot of damaging things. Three particularly come to mind.
- Interference with the tides might be significant since I suspect that the gravitational effect of the rings (rings, though they look like thin wafers, are really bands of rocks in fairly close orbit around a planet) would likely pull the ocean water over the area nearest where they orbit. This in turn would likely cause a loss in the ebb and flow of tides in areas further from them, limiting the benefit of the tides in many areas. Many estuaries would likely not exist. Estuaries are wonderful areas where salt and fresh water mix and a variety of life sets up.
- I also suspect that, due to gravitational effects on the sea, many sea currents would be interfered with. This too would effect weather and limit the even distribution of heat and cold on the planet, so wonderfully done now by weather and sea currents.
- I wonder too if the rings might not interfere with the magnetic field around the earth. This would be more the case if a lot of the rocks that made up the rings were of a significant metallic makeup. Without the proper magnetic field, we all cook. Bye Bye life.
- Finally, it seems certain that rocks from the ring would frequently fall out of orbit, to earth. If large enough, these falling rocks could cause extinction level events. Bye Bye life.
So, enjoy the video of the pretty rings and THANK GOD we don’t have them!
Life on this earth may be a far more rare and miraculous reality than we think. The more I learn of life, the more amazed I become at what the Lord has done. If science has done anything for me, (and it has done a lot), it has surely increased my wonder and awe for God. God has done a marvelous thing in creating this universe and an even more marvelous thing in creating and sustaining this earth. An old hymn says:
O tell of God’s might, O sing of His grace,
Whose robe is the light, whose canopy space,
His chariots of wrath the deep thunderclouds form,
And dark is His path on the wings of the storm.
The earth with its store of wonders untold,
Almighty, Thy power hath founded of old;
Established it fast by a changeless decree,
And round it hath cast, like a mantle, the sea.
Thy bountiful care, what tongue can recite?
It breathes in the air, it shines in the light;
It streams from the hills, it descends to the plain,
And sweetly distills in the dew and the rain.
Praise the Lord for Planet earth, and behold, life is in the balance, the perfect balance.