Ring Around The Planet.


Source: SkyView App

The other night I looked to the south where the moon was rising. To its right I could see a bright dot I knew was Mars even though it was yellow and not its usual red, owing, maybe, to the fact that it hadn’t rained lately and there was a lot of dust in the atmosphere, or maybe Mars has jaundice right now. Between them was another dot that I could tell was a planet and there was only one planet it could be. Even though Saturn is about 95 times more massive than the Earth it’s about 746 million miles from us. Mars is smaller but it also only averages 140 million miles from us. This makes it appear brighter although that’s still a pretty long way to drive even on a holiday weekend.

Anyway the picture above is a bit misleading. It was really more like this:

Source: Weather Underground

Source: Weather Underground

Saturn is famous for its rings but there’s so much more to the seventh planet so I’ve put together a list of lesser-known facts about it.

The first known astronomer to record Saturn’s rings was Galileo. At first he didn’t realize Saturn had rings and thought he was seeing three separate planets. Later he realized he’d been looking at Mars while drunk.

Saturn’s moon Titan is the largest moon in the solar system and the only one known to have its own atmosphere.

Titan was discovered by the Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens in 1655.

The Cassini-Huygens spaceprobe launched in 1997 arrived at Saturn in 2004. It was named after Huygens and Giovanni Cassini, who discovered four other moons of Saturn. Cassini’s name was placed first because not even the Dutch know how to pronounce “Huygens”.

The Huygens probe separated from the main spacecraft and landed on the surface of Titan on January 15, 2005, becoming the first human-made object to land on another planet’s moon.

It takes Saturn almost thirty Earth years to orbit the sun but rotates less than every eleven hours.

Saturn’s rings are believed to be the result of one or more moons or asteroids that broke up over creative differences.

The rings are held in place by a series of shepherd moons and the Los Angeles Rams.

Astronomers and others have noticed that gaps and distortions in the rings resemble the grooves of a vinyl record and in fact are the earliest recording of “Louie, Louie”.

The orbits of the small rocks and clusters of ice that comprise the rings will eventually decay. The rings will be absorbed into Saturn or be bought up by the same people who still have pieces of the Berlin Wall.

Saturn is the least dense planet in the solar system and yet still dropped out of medical school.

As one of the four gas giants Saturn has no real surface, but if it had a surface you could stand on you would suffocate immediately.

Painters and sculptors have historically been said to have been born under the influence of Saturn even though most come from Jupiter.

In astrology Saturn is associated with binge watching ’80’s sitcoms.

Saturn’s moon Iapetus is actually a discarded bowling ball.

Lunch is served all day Thursdays on Saturn.

Saturn’s interior is exactly the same as the filling inside a Twinkie.

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  1. Jay

    It is possible to learn SO much here, even things I have to unlearn the minute I leave. Still worth it. 😉

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I’m always pleased to be able to pass along knowledge. Try telling an astronomer “Saturn’s moon Iapetus is actually a discarded bowling ball.” I’m sure they’ll be suitably impressed that you know that.

      1. Jay

        I will try it. Promise.

  2. Ann Koplow

    I’m taking this stellar or planetary opportunity to post something my son Aaron made when he was 11 years old, which has 86,663 views on YouTube (and 86,663 x 2 = approximately the number of miles Saturn’s rings take up in space). I’m always pleased to pass on knowledge too, Chris.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Wow. I knew Aaron was talented but I didn’t realize he started so young. And I don’t know what a truffle fly is but I want one to go with my wig and a gnome. I also wouldn’t be surprised if he knows this is an example of a Mondegreen–and now my favorite example.

  3. michelle

    The awesome thing about this post is if I read it out to my kids they will believe EVERY WORD.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      That’s one of the advantages of having kids. You can fill their heads with stuff that will embarrass them later.

  4. Lynn

    I almost didn’t read this because it looked too serious. I might be a little slow. As I scanned it, the part about the moons and asteroids breaking up over creative differences caught my eye. hahaha! I love to be surprised!

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I’m so glad I could catch you off guard like that. My goal is to write things that are like Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory: little surprises around every corner but nothing dangerous. Well, nothing really dangerous.

      1. Lynn

        Just don’t put me on that boat through the tunnel. I did not like that.


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