Al Petterson (eyelessgame) wrote,
Al Petterson

Saturn geekery starting

I'm going to try something. Maybe it'll totally bore you. I don't really care. :) It's not about politics - so I should get some credit at least for that.

I'm going to talk about Saturn. That is, about the parts that interest me - the parts that most people who aren't space geeks don't know a thing about. If you're like most people, you know Saturn's the sixth planet from the sun and it has rings. If you're into astrology, you might know that this year it's in Virgo; you might even know it spends two and a half years in each sign (which means it takes about thirty years to go around the Sun). If you were at any point a nerd, you know Saturn is about nine times the diameter of the Earth and it would float if you threw it into a big enough bathtub. And that's it, for most people.

None of that is particularly interesting to me. Or, I should say, none of that is what fascinates me about it. Yeah, Saturn has rings. They're pretty, particularly seeing them yourself in a telescope. But what Saturn itself has in common with Jupiter and Uranus and Neptune is that it's *boring*. It's a big ball of gas. You can't make a map of it. You can't go there - there's no "there" to go to. It's gas. It's like a big dense cloud. It's not a *place*.

But what it has is a bunch of gravity. And gravity captures things around it. And the things that orbit it... they *are* places. There are whole worlds there. They have surfaces. You can map them. You can land things on them. Their surfaces record events; you can read history on them. And someday we might go to them, and walk around on them, and look up from them and see a big Saturn hanging in the sky.

In the past eight years, we've learned more about these worlds of the Saturn system than we learned in all the previous three hundred. And now we know enough about them to know how interesting they are - and how many mysteries we still have to unravel.

I'm going to write about my favorite ten moons of Saturn, one per day. They're favorites because they're mysterious, or odd, or interesting, or all three. Some of them are interesting because of odd gravitational interactions, some just because of how cool they look, and others because they'd be places I'd want someone to visit and learn more about. But they're the ones that I enthuse about when I enthuse about Saturn.
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