The Lost Rings of Saturn

To make reference to the non-existent rings of Saturn sounds like a science fiction story. Still the astronomical news this week is that the most distinctive feature of this beautiful planet will not last forever. Relax. This physical change won’t occur for millions of years from now, but it is a pretty sure thing based upon what is currently known about planetary ring structure.

Planetary rings are discs of dust, ice and rock that orbit an astronomical object. The outside rings of Saturn have an diameter of 270,000 km or 170,000 miles. From Earth it was estimated that these rings are about 1 kilometer thick, while the actual measurements from space give it a width of only 100 meters or not quite a mile. It is simply amazing that with a pair of good binoculars we can see this delicate structure from 975.92 million miles but it is true.

It is not known what purpose the planetary rings serve -or- why some planets have rings and others do not. “One theory is that the rings form at the same time as the planet and it’s major moons. In this case, if material is close to the planet, the planet’s gravitational pull is too strong to coalesce into a moon and the particles that would otherwise form a moon spread out in orbit around the planet as a ring. Another idea is that a close call by a moon or comet results in the planet’s gravitational tidal force breaking up those bodies, the debris of which then becomes a ring system.” Science is currently leaning in the direction of this second possibility.

It was the Cassini Mission that observed that large amounts of ice are “raining” down from the inner rings into Saturn’s upper atmosphere. And this rain is not a drizzle; it pours down at roughly 22,000 pounds (10,000 kilograms) of material per second. If all this seems strange to you, you are not alone. “Almost everything going on in that region turned out to be a surprise,” said Cassini Project Scientist Linda Spilker. And so it is surmised that the current rate of “ring rain” may empty the entire ring system in 100 million years and maybe less.

The ring-making process is not unique to Saturn. It was not so long ago that we discovered that the other three gas giants, possess rings, although not as pronounced as Saturn’s. Two minor planetary bodies called centaurs, Chiron located between Saturn and Uranus and Haumea in the Kuiper belt, also have rings. And it is anticipated that within 50 million years, the moon Phobos which circles Mars and is descending at a rate of six feet (1.8 meters) every hundred years, will sometime crash and perhaps form another of these lovely rings.


Galileo Galilei was the first astronomer to observe Saturn’s rings in 1610. The crudeness of his telescope did not allow him to discern its exact structure but he spent years trying to figure out what it was that he was seeing. Because this dedicated scientist was born on a Saturday which is traditionally ruled by the planet Saturn, we are examining his Dayology Signature.

Galileo Galilei was born on a Saturday in the zodiac sign of Aquarius. Traditionally Saturn rules his both INNER SELF and OUTER SELF, however the modern use of Uranus as the planetary ruler of Aquarius seems quite likely in this case. It’s interesting that Uranus was not discovered until 1781, yet we can truly sense this outer planet’s innovative influence in Galileo ‘s life.

Those born with the #83 SAT AQU Dayology Signature tend to be very independent in their thinking as well as their behavior. While they can be socially polite as they go about their business, they dislike people making their decisions for them. And yet at times they may be forced to to dwell within the most narrow limitations that could ever be imagined.

In his lifetime Galileo made significant contributions to the scientific fields of physics, astronomy, cosmology, mathematics and philosophy. He entered the University of Pisa at age 16 to study medicine, but left without finishing his degree. He decided to study the motion of pendulums which led to other astronomical inquiries. In 1609 Galileo built his first telescope making improvements of his own design. He also published a short treatise outlining his discoveries, “Siderius Nuncius” (“The Starry Messenger”). Throughout this time Galileo not only practiced astrology he taught the subject openly and honorably at the University of Padua. 

In 1632 Galileo published his “Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems,” which presented arguments for both sides of the heliocentric/geocentric debate. He made it clear that preferred to view the sun as the center of the solar system and was convicted of heresy by the Roman Inquisition in 1633. Under threats of torture he was forced to express sorrow and curse his errors. Galileo lived his last nine years under house arrest and wrote one of his finest works, a summary of his early planetary motion experiments.

This example is significant because it is the oldest Dayology signature to be examined. First we had to check if we had the correct birthdate. Then we had to double check that Saturday was correct day of the week. And to keep it real we consulted the natal chart of Galileo to see how this Day Ray and Sun Sign combination actually functioned in his day to day life.

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