14 Jan, 2016 520 Astronomy

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the planet Saturn with its rings of ice and rock and over 60 moons. In 1610, Galileo used an early telescope to observe Saturn, one of the brightest points in the night sky, but could not make sense of what he saw: perhaps two large moons on either side. When he looked a few years later, those supposed moons had disappeared. It was another forty years before Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens solved the mystery, realizing the moons were really a system of rings. Successive astronomers added more detail, with the greatest leaps forward in the last forty years. The Pioneer 11 spacecraft and two Voyager missions have flown by, sending back the first close-up images, and Cassini is still there, in orbit, confirming Saturn, with its rings and many moons, as one of the most intriguing and beautiful planets in our Solar System.

Play on BBC Sounds website


Reading list

  • Titan from Cassini-Huygens
    Robert Brown, Jean-Pierre Lebreton and J. Hunter Waite (eds.) (Springer, 2009) Google Books →
  • Saturn from Cassini-Huygens
    Michele Dougherty, Larry Esposito and Stamatios Krimigis (eds.) (Springer, 2009) Google Books →
  • Saturn
    T. Gehrels and M. Matthews (University of Arizona Press, 1984) Google Books →
  • The Cambridge Guide to the Solar System
    Kenneth R Lang (Cambridge University Press, 2011) Google Books →
  • Titan Unveiled: Saturn's Mysterious Moon Explored
    Ralph Lorenz and Jacqueline Mitton (Princeton University Press, 2008) Google Books →
  • McGraw-Hill Yearbook of Science & Technology
    McGraw-Hill (McGraw-Hill, 2010) Google Books →
  • The Cassini-Huygens Visit to Saturn: An Historic Mission to the Ringed Planet
    Michael Meltzer (Springer, 2015) Google Books →
  • Titan: Interior, Surface, Atmosphere and Space Environment
    I. Muller-Wodarg, C. A. Griffith, E. Lellouch and T. E. Cravens (eds.) (Cambridge University Press, 2014) Google Books →

Related episodes

Programme ID: b06vmr1m

Episode page:

Auto-category: 523.4 (Planets and their satellites)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. In 1610, Galileo, using a rather primitive telescope, observed Saturn, one of the brightest points in the night sky.