Monday, May 16, 2011

Don't miss Saturn this month

EarthSky founder and science educator Deborah Byrd has an excellent article describing the location of Saturn in our night sky this month entitled "Give me five minutes, I'll give you Saturn in May 2011." Saturn is near Spica in the constellation Virgo, which is currently reaching its highest point (transit) as you look to the south around ten minutes to eleven in the evening tonight (and getting four minutes earlier each evening, as explained here).

We have explained previously the argument put forward by Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend in Hamlet's Mill that "the planets were the active powers among the stars" and hence the gods of ancient mythology. The backdrop of the stars is fixed, in that even though it rotates, the stars themselves do not change their locations relative to one another. The planets, however, move across the scene along the path of the ecliptic (discussed in this previous post). The name "planet" comes from the Greek word for "wanderer."

Saturn, as the furthest planet visible with the naked eye and the slowest mover of all of the wandering night objects, was a very important planet and can in fact be said to be one of the "heroes" of Hamlet's Mill. For a variety of reasons, including his slow pace, he was said in ancient mythologies to be the "Lord of the Measures" or the "Originator of the Times." De Santillana and von Dechend explain:
Saturn has been "appointed" to be the one who established it because he is the outermost planet, nearest to the sphere of fixed stars. "This planet was taken for the one who communicated motion to the Universe and who was, so to speak, its king;" this is what Schlegel reports of China (L'Uranographie Chinoise, pp 628 ff). Saturn does give the measures: this is the essential point. How are we to reconcile it with Saturn the First King, the ruler of the Golden Age who is now asleep at the outer confines of the world? The conflict is only apparent, as will be seen. For now it is essential to recognize that, whether one has to do with the Mesopotamian Saturn, Enki/Ea, or with Ptah of Egypt, he is the "Lord of Measures" -- spell it me in Sumerian, parshu in Akkadian, maat in Egyptian. And the same goes for His Majesty, the Yellow Emperor of China -- yellow, because the element earth belongs to Saturn -- "Huang-ti established everywhere the order for the sun, the moon and the stars." 135.
These things are important to understand in the connection between the sky and the clues left to us in the ancient mythologies. They can become more immediate if you also check out Saturn in the sky yourself, as you have an excellent opportunity to do this month.