Welcome Back Saturn

The long awaited arrival of the “Lord of the Rings” is here.  Saturn is back and demands all eyes on him.  He will strut his stuff for us as we gaze upon this most popular planet in our Solar System.  The public loves and can’t get enough of Saturn and his rings of glory.

In February, NatGeoTV hosted a show called “Traveler’s Guide to the Planets,” which gave great depth and fascinating new facts (great for sharing with the public) on our Solar System.  Did you know, for example, that the Cassini Mission showed pictures of Saturn’s 3-dimensional rings full of particles and boulders traveling 20,000 to 40,000 miles per hour?  It confirmed that Saturn has 90 mile-per-hour winds around its equator.  How about the fact that once every fifteen years its summer swaps hemispheres?

As early as the Voyager Missions, three decades ago, it was discovered that there is a hexagon shape at Saturn’s north pole, while its south pole had a hurricane storm 5,000 miles across.  It was also revealed how half the rings block light from either pole depending on the season.  (These kinds of facts can spice up your eyepiece chatter at Saturn star parties!)

As you deepen your relationship with Saturn, you’ll see that a few of its moons are easily visible, and can become part of your “eyepiece presentation.”  These moons often have a co-dependent relationship with the planet.  For example, their gravity can cause “waves” in the rings.  And the moon Enceladus is giving up ice geysers from its south pole to help form yet another ring, called the E-ring.

The Lord of the Rings never fails to make us stop and appreciate the wonders of our Universe. Everyone in the world should have the opportunity to pause and take a look.

Saturn Watch Details

Saturn Watch will start on April 11th and continue nightly until the 16th when we have another Beauty Without Borders observing event. We are promoting naked eye, telescopic, and photographic observing and activities as well as remote observing sessions.

Beauty Without Borders (BWB) is a joint Astronomers Without Borders/Sidewalk Astronomers event that takes place at various times during the year, focusing on the beauty of the planets in our Solar System.  Past BWBs have celebrated the beauty of Venus and welcomed Mars.  From Iraq, Brazil, India, and Sri Lanka to Indonesia, the United States, and New Zealand, amateurs and the public have gazed up and figuratively joined hands to share the beauty of the planet and the beauty of worldwide unity for a few hours.

We hope you will join us on Friday evening, April 16th to gaze together at Saturn.

Program Ideas:

The Saturn Observing Campaign (SOC) is a volunteer network sponsored by NASA’s Cassini Mission to Saturn.  They are seeking members in the United States and around the world in countries and states which don’t already have members.  Please visit the SOC website to see if there are members in your state or country.  If so, you can join them in their activities, and if not, please consider applying for membership.

SOC has several online presentations and resources:

Make your own Cassini Presentation

Cassini Talks

JPL Podcasts on YouTube

What’s Up in the Night Sky master Page  (March is about Saturn)

What’s Up in the Night Sky RSS?itunes (download automatically)

Other Program Ideas:

Naked-Eye Observations: Chart the position of Saturn, naked-eye, throughout the evening with local school groups.

Saturn Themed Star Parties: Host a star party at a local school and have a corresponding art contest or have a local poet write and recite Saturn themed poetry.

Imaging: Hold your own astrophotography contest.

Lectures/Talks: Hold a lecture/talk at a public library, community organization meeting (Kiwanis, Lions clubs, etc) or at a local bookstore.

The website Saturn Today is a great resource for information