The sadness of Saturn
October 10, 2017 7:51 PM   Subscribe

Sam Kriss writes for The Outline.
People have always distrusted Saturn. For 5,000 years it’s been a symbol of age and death and misery. But the present-day theorists of its evil have proof. In its 13-year orbit of the planet (it took seven years for the spacecraft to reach Saturn's orbit, although it made some stops at other planets along the way), the Cassini mission, a collaboration between NASA and the space agencies of Italy and the European Union, saw incredible things.

Flickering aurora-lights dancing over Saturn’s poles; towers of ice and rock hanging like stalactites from the edge of its rings, vast jets of water vapour escaping from the surface of its moon Enceladus, honeyed sunlight glinting off the lakes of Titan. But it also showed us something terrifying. On Saturn’s north pole, there’s a vast, seemingly permanent storm, twice the size of Earth, rotating perfectly in time with the intense radio waves that blare out from the planet’s core, and shaped like a flawless hexagon. Six points. Six lines. The sixth planet. Just what is going on?
posted by Existential Dread (20 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
although it made some stops at other planets along the way

This is literally the opposite of what it was doing when it flew past those other planets.
posted by hippybear at 8:07 PM on October 10 [21 favorites]


Did anyone see the last full portrait of the rings from behind taken just 3 days before crashing into saturn? If I'm not mistaken, it was taken at an angle of 120 degrees from the sun, aka one of the magic angles for ice crystals (the same process that makes high clouds in the winter look shiny and opalescent). Look how the rings have that metallic sheen across them. Ever since they announced the end of the mission I've been feeling like one of my best friends was dying of cancer and I have no problem admitting that seeing that last portrait had me sobbing for an hour.
posted by sexyrobot at 8:33 PM on October 10 [17 favorites]


"... the hexagon on the contrary must be considered by you the prototype of your anti-type, as well as all its derived crystallizations which are the inorganic ones of the mineral realm."
posted by sfenders at 8:46 PM on October 10


I rolled my eyes while reading the article as often as I smiled or cooed appreciatingly. Why can't I just let people love the things they love without having to sneer at them? The world has ru'nt me.

Seriously a lovely thing to read. Even if it was overwrought sometimes. I mean shit I guess that's the point of Saturn if you think about it.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 9:59 PM on October 10 [1 favorite]


Its kind of a pity. With all the spectacular weirdness in the solar system, including Saturn's hexagon, the cranks that infest the space-oriented web groups are still all universally obsessed with the flat Earth. Seriously behind the times.
posted by happyroach at 10:10 PM on October 10 [2 favorites]


I rolled my eyes while reading the article as often as I smiled or cooed appreciatingly.

Have you encountered Sam Kriss before? I'm liking this one so far though.
posted by atoxyl at 10:50 PM on October 10


This one, especially towards the end, reads like a passage from Doris Lessing's Briefing for a Descent into Hell. Spoiler: the protagonist of the novel, at one point, entered a Kriss-like stage soon before going into the real deal.
posted by runcifex at 11:11 PM on October 10


I went to an event where they had a bunch of really good telescopes. The moon is awfully pretty, and I got to see Saturn, ring and all. Not super detailed like the moon, but very cool.
posted by theora55 at 11:21 PM on October 10 [2 favorites]


A half-decent essay on the cultural history of Saturn, ruined by copious helpings of complete bollocks.
posted by Devonian at 4:26 AM on October 11 [1 favorite]


A piece of writing like a misshapen, hypertrophied chicken, you could put a knife to it but then it dies.
posted by dmh at 5:51 AM on October 11 [1 favorite]


On Saturn’s north pole, there’s a vast, seemingly permanent storm, twice the size of Earth, rotating perfectly in time with the intense radio waves that blare out from the planet’s core, and shaped like a flawless hexagon. Six points. Six lines. The sixth planet. Just what is going on?
posted by Existential Dread


Eponysterical. Well done.
posted by heatherlogan at 5:59 AM on October 11 [3 favorites]


Though it should be noted that Existential Dread is playing the eponysterical game on ridiculously fucking easy mode.
posted by Spathe Cadet at 6:32 AM on October 11 [10 favorites]


"... the hexagon on the contrary must be considered by you the prototype of your anti-type, as well as all its derived crystallizations which are the inorganic ones of the mineral realm."

is this time cube
posted by Itaxpica at 6:54 AM on October 11 [3 favorites]


Flickering aurora-lights dancing over Saturn’s poles; towers of ice and rock hanging like stalactites from the edge of its rings, vast jets of water vapour escaping from the surface of its moon Enceladus, honeyed sunlight glinting off the lakes of Titan.

All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.
posted by flabdablet at 8:07 AM on October 11 [4 favorites]


is this time cube

Look at an ordinary gaming die from the corner, with one eye. What shape do you see?

mind. blown.
posted by flabdablet at 8:08 AM on October 11 [3 favorites]


the last full portrait of the rings from behind

Somebody needs to release that as a hat.
posted by flabdablet at 8:10 AM on October 11 [2 favorites]


Though it should be noted that Existential Dread is playing the eponysterical game on ridiculously fucking easy mode.

Hey, I didn't ask for this burden, but I carry it well.
posted by Existential Dread at 8:34 AM on October 11 [3 favorites]


Oh crap, I was going to say, "Attack ships off the shoulder of Orion!"
posted by Oyéah at 9:21 AM on October 11 [2 favorites]


We Have Always Distrusted Saturn is the lesser-known sequel to Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived In The Castle.

To show solidarity with the wrongly-maligned Saturn, I henceforth pledge to always preface its name with "lovely". Lovely Saturn. MVEMJLSUNP.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:34 PM on October 11 [2 favorites]


As it happens, Wikipedia's article on Saturn is the featured article on its front page today.
posted by XMLicious at 3:34 AM on October 12


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