Do You Really Know Saturn?

Galileo Galileo, first noticed 3 bodies side by side through a telescope in the 1600’s. He supposed that the body was a planet that had arms or handles, calling them ears. This planet he found is known as Saturn, the ears are Saturn’s rings. Today, we have a huge amount of information about Saturn at our disposal. We know information about Saturn’s composition and the atmosphere it inhabits. We also know that Saturn has 60 moons, obtaining a lot of details concerning their hemispheres. Our information comes from technologies such as the Pioneer 11 spacecraft, Voyager 2, The Hubble Space Telescope, Cassini spacecraft, and Huygens probe. Saturn has a distance of 1.4 billion kilometers from where we stand. In this citation, this paper will give you the detailed knowledge of Saturn, from astronomy, to astrology, including the mythology. I should first start with Saturn’s roots, in a sense – Mythology.

Saturn’s Mythology Saturn in mythology is known as Cronus who is the God of Eternal Time. He is represented as an old man leaning on a scythe symbolizing that the past should be forgotten, with an hour glass in his hand symbolizing time, as a blink of an eye. Cronus, who was married to Rhea had six children, three sons: Hades, Poseidon, and Zeus, and three daughters: Hestia, Demeter, and Hera. Uranus (Rhea’s father) forewarned Cronus: the birth of a child would activate a prophecy, and Cronus would be dethroned. At the birth of his children, Cronus ate the children one by one. Rhea frantic, put a massive stone in a blanket, tricking Cronus, saving her last born and named him Zeus (Jupiter). She sent Zeus to the heart of Mount Ida, where he was hidden and taken care of by a sacred goat, a nymph, eagles, and doves. Zeus grew developing great physical power and extreme intelligence. When Zeus came to be a man, he asked Goddess Metis for help, persuading Cronus to drink a potion, gaining his siblings back. Cronus was enraged, beginning the war of Titanomachia. The war was long and fierce, with Zeus eventually gaining victory resulting in Cronus’s banishment from his dominions. Cronus went on to take refuge with King Janus in Italy, eventually becoming the public treasury and the law of the state. Cronus shared the thrown with King Janis, gaining prosperity and happiness. Their united reign became thoroughly peaceful and happy, it was called the Golden Age. In 3,000 BCE, the planets were followed and cataloged in Mesopotamia, our first known astrologers.

Saturn Through the Eyes of Astrology. Astrology before the 17th century was concerned with mathematics, astronomy, philosophy, and often medicine. In the 17th century, astronomy was separated from astrology. Liz Greene explains, “If one did not have freedom of will, then the freedom to choose salvation could not exist. It would have made God, not the individual responsible for the individual’s success of failure in achieving salvation through the planets”. (2011). Saturn: A new look at an old devil. Hand, R. (1981) explains Saturn’s effects on us in “Horoscope Symbols”. Saturn is energy that maintains reality as we understand it, making rules, setting limits, creating structure, and defining the nature of our life. Saturn directs the attention of individuals, to other’s opinions, needs, and ideas of truth. Robert Hand explains, “We depend on a reality system for support, and even if we are at times unfamiliar with its rules, we are grateful for its existence”. Saturn has so much beauty, as the planet of limitation, there is also much knowledge to gain as far as its relation to our universe.

What is Saturn? Saturn is the second largest planet in the solar system, and the sixth planet from the sun (9.54 AU). The size of Saturn’s disk is fifteen to twenty-one arc seconds. You could line up about 9 Earth’s along Saturn’s diameter. It has cirrus clouds of ammonia-ice crystals, because of its distance from the sun. In 1979, the first fly-by of Saturn was achieved by Pioneer Two. In 1980, the first detailed study of Saturn and its system was accomplished by Voyager One. In, 1994 the Hubble Space Telescope gained evidence of Saturn’s surface features. Saturn is rich in hydrogen and helium, denser then water, with a mass 95 times that of Earth. Evidence tells us that its interior is mostly liquid with a small core, which is made up of – water, ammonia, methane, silicon, and iron. Saturn’s core is best described as metallic, extremely hot at 10,000 kelvins. Because of Saturn’s fast rotation and its oblate shape, gravity varies from the poles to the equator. Saturn’s north pole is characterized by a bizarre hexagonal jet stream. The hexagon, compared as a hurricane is twice the size of Earth, with a jet stream traveling at 217,500 mph. This north pole hurricane is fifty times larger, than our typical hurricane on Earth, and has been whirling for decades. At Saturn’s equator there are streaks of lightening that tear through the yellow smog, with winds nearly supersonic speeds. and its diameter at the equator is nine point four times the diameter of Earth. Saturn is more compressed at the poles and bulged at the equator due to its rapid rotation. Saturn radiates more energy than it receives from the sun. Possibly, because heavier helium separates from hydrogen, transforming to drops, sinking, causing friction that releases heat. Frigid at the top, with temperatures as cold as -288 degrees Fahrenheit. A day on Saturn, is the equivalent to 10.7 Earth hours. One year on Saturn, is the equivalent to 29.4 Earth years. Like the Earth, Saturn has a tilt, relative to the plane of the solar system at 267 degrees. Sunlight casts a large ring shadow upon Saturn.

Saturn’s Rings. Terence Dickinson explains, “Simply floating in the rings’ golden gravel and carried around the solar system would be an intoxicating experience: the partly hidden sun glinting off the multitude of particles, the gravitational symphony of collective motion carries them around the planet, the feeling of being surrounded yet freely suspended in space – all disguise the fact that everything is whirling around the planet at 45,000 miles per hour”. They are replenished by impacts on Saturn’s moons or other processes. Gravitational effects of small moons confine some rings keeping narrow strands and sharp edges. The moons produce visible waves in the rings, tightly wound ringlets. The distribution of mass within Saturn holds the rings form, rather than the particles spread into a random haze. Gravitational interactions with the larger moons confine the thin plane of small moons and particles. The various forces from the larger moons produce the thousands of divisions in the ring structure, without the moons the rings would not exist. Saturn’s rings contain icy-particles like those in an ice fog to house-sized chunks, never straying more than 150 feet from a perfectly flat disk. Collisions within the rings gradually grind down the larger particles. In the meantime, the smaller particles gather to make large particles. There is accretion and equilibrium between the two particle processes. Because, the outside of the rings contain larger particles as there is more accretion. The rings from edge to edge span the distance of the gulf between the Earth and the moon. The rings are about as thick as a 30 story building. The aspect of the rings change slowly, every 14 years they will be virtually edge-on-edge, therefore almost invisible. Twice during each orbit, the rings reach a maximum inclination to the line of sight – the first inclination they are visible from above, the second inclination they are visible from below. Saturn’s rings will always be tilted in the same direction. The likely origin of the rings was first proposed in the 19th century by French mathematician Edward Roche. Roche suggested if an object such as a small moon gets too close to a planet, the object would be torn apart by the planet’s tidal force. As in the past, one or several objects must have passed within Saturn’s “Roche limit” and broken apart to form the rings. If you could take a space walk around Saturn’s A ring, at 25 km a day you would be back at your starting point in ninety-five years. The A ring is 420,000 kilometers wide. The A ring contains several gaps one named, the Encke Gap after the 19th century German astronomer Joham Franz Encke. Inside the Encke Gap is a twisted ring named Encke Doodle. Next, is the Cassini division, dividing Saturn’s A and B ring. Saturn’s C ring is 25,000 km in diameter. The narrow F ring lies beyond the A ring, containing the Shepherd Moons. The E ring is the widest and thickest of all the rings measuring 300,000 km from top to bottom. Saturn as of 2018 contains over 60 ice cratered moons.

Co-orbital Satellites. These two moonlets are of Saturn’s F ring Prometheus located on the inner edge, and Pandora at the outer edge. They seemingly keep matter in the F ring from trailing off. They are called “Shepherd Moons”. They have a tug-of-war between them that account for their curious kink. You could call the tug-of war a unique dance, as they orbit Saturn every 17 hrs. Pandora is located 190 km from Saturn and Prometheus 120,000 km. As rotating at only 50,000 km apart there is no room to pass one another, so right before collision, every four hours, their gravitational attraction cause the two moons to switch orbits.

Mimas. Orbits Saturn at a distance of 185,500 km in the outer most E ring, Mimas is largely composed of ice. Discovered by William Herschel in 1789. Mimas has a diameter of 390 km. Mimas has a huge impact crater named Hershel, 130 km in diameter and 10 km deep, resulting from a collision that must have almost tore the moon apart.

Encleladus. Known as the strangest moon in the solar system, showing signs of recent geological activity. Encleladus consists of many types of terrains – rounded craters, broad plains, and ice volcanos. Gravitation squeezes and stretches Encleladus keeping it geologically active. The gravitation also causing the water volcanos to erupt icy matter, giving the E ring its icy particles. The E ring is brighter and denser near Encleladus.

The Twins; Tethys and Dione. Orbits Saturn at a distance 295,000 km. Tethys is a heavily cratered ice-ball frozen from the surface to the center and is measured as two third the size of Rhea. Tethys contains a deep branching canyon, which is 1,000 km long by 100 km wide, with its largest crater measuring 400 km wide. Tethys can be seen as a crescent phase, left of the terminator and has two mini moons. Tethys twin Dione is located right of Saturn’s rings. Nearly half of the distance away from Saturn as Tethys. Dione is located close to Rhea, giving the illusion of being considerably larger than Tethys, Dione is only slightly larger. Dione is an ice-covered globe, about 40% rock, and may have had more of a geological history than its twin Tethys.

Rhea Orbits Saturn at a distance of nearly a half million km, located on the same plane as Saturn’s rings. Rhea is Saturn’s second largest moon, in comparison: the satellite is half the size of the Earth’s moon, and four times the size of Mimas. Rhea gleams a bluish color in the cold light of the distant sun, Rhea has a bright forward-facing hemisphere and a darker rear hemisphere. Containing bright streaks shortly after the satellite was formed, which may be signs of internal activity. Impacts may have erased the streaks on the forward-facing hemisphere, leaving streaks on the rear side.

Titan. Completing an orbit around Saturn once every 15.95 days, at an average distance of 1,222,000 km. Titan’s diameter is almost 5,150 km across, larger than Mercury and the second largest satellite in the Solar System. In 2005, the Huygens probe successfully landed on Titan, returning pictures of its surface. Surface is hidden by a thick nitrogen rich atmosphere. Its gas molecules do not travel fast enough to escape, because of its cold environment. Titan containing an atmosphere of mostly nitrogen, much like air on Earth. Titan also contains traces of methane, some of which is converted into complex carbon-rich molecules, thanks to the sunlight. These molecules collect into small particles – filling the atmosphere with orange smog. Titan’s air includes – argon, methane, and other gases that were present in Earth’s early atmosphere. Almost twice as dense as water, suggesting beneath the thick, cold nitrogen atmosphere there is a rocky core. Titan is the only known satellite to have an atmosphere. Titan is the only body besides Earth known to have oceans of liquid on its surface, although its oceans are made of methane. Titan contains hills and mountains named after characters and places in J.J.R Tolkien’s fiction – Gandalf, Arwen, Bilbo Baggins, and Mount Doom. The brightest and smoothest of all Saturn’s moons, its surface full of pure ice, reflects nearly all of its light from the sun. Although Titan is Saturn’s brightest moon, it is a dark and gloomy ice-covered world. Inhabiting an eerie reddish sky, giving a slow dusting of organic materials, covering portions of Titan with a tar-like coating.

Iapetus. Orbits Saturn at an average distance of 3.5 million km, facing where the satellite has already travelled. Iapetus was discovered by Giovanni Cassini in 1971. Iapetus, a mystery object of pure ice, with a diameter of 1,440 km and 0.025 percent of the mass of our Earth moon. The one side of Iapetus is covered with thick snow, the other side is one-tenth the brightness, coated with a dark reddish layer of unknown origin.

(C) 2019, Andrea R. Rice, All Rights Reserved.


Seeds, M. A., & Backman, D. (2018). ASTRO3 Introductory Astronomy (pp. 144-148). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

Berens, E. M. (2015). Mythology; Who’s who in Greek and Roman Mythology (pp. 6-11). Boston, WY: Birmingham.

Greene, L. (2011). Saturn: A new look at an old devil. Weiser Books.

Hand, R. (1981). Horoscope Symbols (pp. 67-71). Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing, Ltd.

Dickinson, T. (1986). The Universe and Beyond. Camden East, Ontario: Camden House Publishing Ltd.

Levy, D. H., & O’Byrne, D. (2002). Guide To Skywatching (pp. 250-251). San Francisco, CA: Fog City Press.

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