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Saturn And Voyager


The ancients write of a "sun" of the night sky which hovered over the top-of-the-world. It was taken to be a manifestation of the great god. Some worshipped him as Shamash, others knew him as Atum. The Greeks called him Kronos, the Romans Saturn. Today, his worldly-image is but a dim yellow starry point in the sky the ringed planet we call Saturn. It orbits the Sun every twenty-nine and one-half years. The most distant of the planets visible to the naked eye, Saturn is about one and one-half billion kilometres from the Earth; and its diameter is nearly ten times greater than the Earth's. In the sky, Saturn represents a target the size of a five cent coin at 236 metres. At that target NASA launched two space probes called Voyager. The first of them (Voyager 2) was launched from Cape Canaveral in 1977 on August 20, with Voyager I following sixteen days later on September 5. They are the most sophisticated hardware yet to be sent into space from Earth.

En route to Saturn, Voyager I encountered Jupiter between January and April of 1979, transmitting 33,000 pictures to Earth. It passed Jupiter on March 5, 278,000 kilometres above Jupiter's clouded face. Jupiter's gravity was used to turn Voyager 1, aiming it toward Saturn which it reached on November 12, 1980. To reach its destination, Voyager I has travelled 57% farther than the straight line distance between the Earth and Saturn. Its speed passing the planet reached 58,000 km/h as Voyager dipped to an altitude of 124,000 km above Saturn. There, Voyager deflected and it is now speeding toward the edge of the Solar System, which it will leave in the next decade. If, at that time, it is still functioning Voyager I will send another important message telling scientists if the solar wind continues to blow away from the Sun at the system's edge.

Voyager 2, following a longer route, has passed Jupiter but is still ten months from its Saturn encounter.

The Voyagers have ten instruments and radio transmitters with which to probe these two giant planets, their moons, rings, and the space through which they orbit. The messages from Jupiter and Saturn have surprised NASA scientists, but not me, by finding many phenomena that seemingly can be powered by electricity.


The pictures, the most dramatic evidence from the Saturn encounter, take 85 minutes to reach Earth after transmission. By the time we see an image the camera has travelled 82,000 km beyond the site of that image. So, there is no chance to refocus the camera, shift the view, or increase the exposure: we get only what we happen to see.

The views of the clouds and rings as seen via the reconstituted television images were spectacular. They have and will become even better when computer-enhanced and printed on photographic paper in colour. Already, the long assumed structure of the Saturnian rings has been demolished.

[*!* Image] [*!* Image]

The rings, the most spectacular sight in the Solar System, form a thin band (no more than 10 km thick) above Saturn's equator. They extend upward from the clouds, forming a disc more than 274,000 km across. In this century they were presumed to be debris destined once to form a small moon close to Saturn. If this moon had formed it might have been one-third as heavy as the Earth's moon. Instead, scientists thought, Saturn's gravity prevented this debris left over from Saturn's formation from accreting. They claimed also that prominent gaps seen in the rings were caused by Saturn's other moons disturbing the myriad of tiny solid particles which make up the rings. The gaps were presumed to be empty. Last year, Pioneer XI the first spaceprobe to encounter Saturn looked back at the rings after it was beyond the planet. Lit from behind, Pioneer photographed bright rings in some of the places where earthbound observers see gaps and gaps in some places where we see rings!

Clearly the notion that the rings are separated bands of orbiting debris is wrong. The rings are thought to be made up of tiny particles (each in its own orbit) but there is only one cloud involved. There does, however, seem to be some mechanism acting which has sorted out the particles by size, more or less streaming the particles. This sorted motion resembles the group motions now believed to govern the orbits followed by the larger asteroids. The asteroids are found in the region between the planets Mars and Jupiter. Like the rings, scientists have hypothesized that the asteroids are uncollected fragments dating from the beginning of the Solar System. This view may not survive much longer as contradictory evidence is growing.

Voyager found one ring section to look like "two narrow entwined braids". Equally perplexing are radial fingers running across the rings at their brightest parts. These "spokes" form, persist about three hours, and then dissolve only to be replaced by another spoke.

[*!* Image]

Their dynamics suggest they are similar in behaviour to the granular cells detected on the Sun. A vertical flow from space to the planet is quite possibly exciting gas, trapped above Saturn, to become luminous. Observations compiled during the 19th century had already been cited in evidence of the reality of important changes in the ring positions over a period of time, even before Voyager 1 obtained this clinching piece of datum. So, the rings are not fossils; they are dynamic and are reacting to the planetary environment from moment to moment.

Voyager's sensors also have shown that Saturn's day is 24 minutes longer than had been expected. It detected a huge cloud of hydrogen gas enveloping the planet where scientists had expected to find a disc of gas pervading only the planes of the rings and the satellite orbits. The discovery of two moons in one orbit and several small moons on the edge of, and possibly within, the space traditionally restricted to the swarms of tiny ring particles only add to the mystery posed by Saturn viewed conventionally.

In a Velikovskian context, the results from the Saturn encounter of Voyager I should once and for all negate the notion that electric and magnetic forces play only a secondary role in the cosmos. How can the structure noted on Saturn's rings be explained by gravitational force? The braided ring resembles an intertwined trio of filaments, resembling the paths of ions and electrons around a magnetic field line. There is no known gravitational analog for this motion. Equally incompatible with normally observed gravitationally produced motion is the behaviour of the spokes in the bright B ring. Here, a radial electric flow could be the source of the bright spokes observed both from the sunward and the dark-side of the rings!

[*!* Image]

The curious pair of moons in Dione's orbit is interacting such that the trailing moon was described as pushing the leader. As normally described, gravity pulls bodies together. Gravitational repulsion is, in theory, unknown. However, if the interaction between the planets (or the satellites) is analyzed, they move so as to maintain the greatest possible distance between one another, passing closest at the fewest places along their orbits in such a way that the close-points are as far apart as possible. This avoidance explains why adjacent orbits have periods which are close to being commensurable. If only two planets existed, the orbits would likely be exactly commensurable (2 to 1, 3 to 2, or 4 to 3). Because planet 3 upsets the commensurability of 2 and 1, and planet 4 upsets 3 and 2, etc., the nearly commensurable condition found in the Solar System persists. In the literature, this commensurability has been described as the Principle of Least Interaction Action (or perhaps the least attraction). A superior description is that the planets REPEL ONE ANOTHER AS STRONGLY AS POSSIBLE . The pushing of Dione A by B, as seen by Voyager, provides an illustration of both the conception of a repulsion (or gravitational push) and the effect of the neighbouring satellites in keeping these two rocks in similar orbits. If the adjacent satellites were moved away, Dione A and B could separate into orbits of quite different periods. In all likelihood the Dione pair is too small to push its neighbors away so they cannot separate. A gravitational push is most easily described in terms of electrical repulsion between the interacting bodies.

The topography of the satellites themselves adds further evidence of electrical interaction. The satellite Mimas has a great peaked hill surrounded by concentric ridges (as if the hill is inside a huge crater). This feature is greater than one-quarter of Mimas' diameter. Is this structure an anode feature comparable to Olympus Mons of Mars? On Dione A there are dark areas and rayed craters which could be cathode spots.

The satellite Tethys has a great canyon, 800 km long, reminiscent of the much larger Vallis Marinaris of Mars. Juergens has described this latter canyon in electrical terms. On tiny Tethys and Mimas the canyon and peaked hill are very great structures indeed, representing for their parent body much larger cataclysmic scars than their Martian homologs.

The polar twilight haze observed above Titan as a thickening of its already smoggy atmosphere may add to the electrical evidence, especially if this "glow" turns out to be similar to Earth's aurora polaris

The Voyager 1 mission provided badly needed facts and demolished much speculation which too long has been stated as factual. It is a triumph of engineering and technology and it is definitely a tribute to human ingenuity. But it cannot be cited honestly in support of the speculations about the origin and creation of the Solar System so cherished by scientists and educators alike. It is time to redraft the theory bringing it into line with fact. This, I feel, is the ultimate legacy of Voyager 1.

An electrical explanation is compatible with all of the phenomena and topographies described above. In a recently catastrophized Solar System such features would be expected. To my view, the widely printed quote attributed to Bradford Smith (leader of the Voyager camera team) that "we have learned more in the past week than in the entire span of human history" is symptomatic of our problem as catastrophists. Saturn and its environs have not always been unknown and remote. We know better. Maybe growing lists of otherwise unexplainable data will convince more scientists of the electrical nature and recency of the surfaces of our celestial neighbours. When they come to that realization, Velikovsky will be upheld and given the credit he deserves as a pioneer in the science of the late-twentieth century.

[*!* Image] A look back at Saturn with its shadow upon the rings.

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