Sunday, April 22, 2012

Saturn - Lord of the Rings, Lord of the Skies

"Saturn - Lord of the Rings, Lord of the Skies"," For anyone new to telescopic observing, Saturn is usually an early and easy target.
 It yearns for greater magnification.
 Indeed, at present it is very easy to find, even by the naked eye, being the brightest object visible between those constellations at apparent magnitude 0.
 Saturn's rings are now opening, but will soon temporarily start to close again from our perspective.

When I first saw Saturn through by 200mm f4.
 Through a 26mm Plossl eyepiece, the planet is small, very bright, with clearly visible rings, and at least one of its family of moons is visible (Titan, of course).
 Saturn has a family of nearly sixty moons in tow, and to really enjoy this ""mini solar system"" a 9mm eyepiece gives a great view, the Cassini Division and the A and B rings coming clearly into view.
 There are a few cloud bandings visible on the planet's disc - these bands however, are much less pronounced than those of Jupiter.
3 billion kilometers away - indeed the light reaching your eyes from Saturn has taken over an hour and a half to reach Earth.
 This enigmatic tiny little world appears to have a definite brownish hue through the telescope using the Barlow and my 9mm orthoscopic eyepiece, due to its bizarre hydrocarbon atmosphere.
 Titan has weather too -- it rains liquid ethane and methane on Titan -- yes it's that cold!

Observing Titan, you envisage those boulders and rocks of solid ice from the Huygens photographs, and you think about Cassini's scans of this tiny world.
 Averted vision shows them to be even brighter -- they are more of Sa family of moons, including Rhea and Tethys again, and Dione and possibly even Enceladus! I think of venting Saturan's ter and ice inhaled by Cassini, and I wonder how liquid water possibly exists within such a deep freeze as the Saturnian system.
 And I think how the Lord of the Rings has wonders aplenty to keep mankind fascinated for decades and centuries to come.

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