Question about Saturn

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pedme84

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Hello people who know about astronomy! I'm a student of mythology who's really interested in its connection to astronomy. A Mayan shaman once told me that the planet Saturn is facing away from us, and in 2012 the planet will face towards us. His English wasn't the best, so that was the best way that he could explain it. Can anyone tell me what he was referring to astronomically? Thanks!
 
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nexium

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As far as I know, nothing special is expected for Earth or Saturn in 2012. Some myths have no basis in reality and other myths have lost the basis that they they had long ago. Neil
 
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origin

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Not really. Maybe he was refering to the orientation of the rings - only I don't know how to arbitrarily decide which orientation is facing away as opposed to facing towards us. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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shadow735

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Probably meant the orientation of the rings (like a lid the top of lid facing us)= rings facing us, and (botom of lid facing us)= rings facing away from us. So for rings to face us the rings closest to us would be on south pole, and when rings facing away from us the rings closest to us would be on north pole. <br />Hope that made sense. <br /><br />another way to looks at it using keyboard symbols would be fwd slash where earth is to left (would be rings facing toward us) and backslash with earth to left (would be rings facing away from us) <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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pedme84

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Thanks! I'm curious if you can see this without a telescope.
 
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adrenalynn

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Saturns rings are not visible to the unaided eye. Just not enough light or magnification.<br /><br />Even a cheapie toy scope can reach out and touch Saturn, though, on a good night. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p>.</p><p><font size="3">bipartisan</font>  (<span style="color:blue" class="pointer"><span class="pron"><font face="Lucida Sans Unicode" size="2">bī-pär'tĭ-zən, -sən</font></span></span>) [Adj.]  Maintaining the ability to blame republications when your stimulus plan proves to be a devastating failure.</p><p><strong><font color="#ff0000"><font color="#ff0000">IMPE</font><font color="#c0c0c0">ACH</font> <font color="#0000ff"><font color="#c0c0c0">O</font>BAMA</font>!</font></strong></p> </div>
 
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willpittenger

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Galileo's telescope was just barely good enough to show him the rings. He was the first person to see them. However, all he saw was what appeared to be a tiny disk with "ears." I think "ears" was the actual word he used (or at least the Italian word for ears). <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <hr style="margin-top:0.5em;margin-bottom:0.5em" />Will Pittenger<hr style="margin-top:0.5em;margin-bottom:0.5em" />Add this user box to your Wikipedia User Page to show your support for the SDC forums: <div style="margin-left:1em">{{User:Will Pittenger/User Boxes/Space.com Account}}</div> </div>
 
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origin

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10 X 50 binoculars should do the trick. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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CalliArcale

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Galileo suspected that the "ears" were very large satellites in a very close orbit around Saturn, but could not explain why they seemed to always be in the same positions on either side -- or why they seemed to mutate over time.<br /><br />Huygens figured it out, with a better telescope. <img src="/images/icons/wink.gif" /><br /><br />I don't think this Mayan shaman could have known about the rings. The technology simply wasn't available to him. And Saturn does not "face" one way or the other -- although its rotational period isn't very clear (because it's a gaseous planet and thus doesn't have a defined surface), it definitely isn't facing Earth for years on end, only to face the other way in 2012. I don't think it's possible to say what that gentleman meant, barring somebody digging up an ancient codex that goes into more detail on the prediction.<br /><br />Saturn did go through its solstice a few years ago, and is moving towards solstice. I think it would be just past equinox in 2012, but any connection to that is probably coincidence; the Mayans could certainly have determined Saturn's orbital parameters, but without good telescopes they couldn't have ascertained its axial inclination.<br /><br />As far as Mayan mythology, 2012 is the year that the current cycle of the Mayan calendar expires -- at which time, ancient Mayan astronomers would simply expect people to start up a fresh cycle. Contrary to what some doomsayers claim, the Mayans didn't anticipate the world to end in 2012; they just knew that was when their calendar would run out. Being very confident in themselves, they fully expected their Mayan world-leader descendants to simply start a fresh cycle at that point. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p> </p><p><font color="#666699"><em>"People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly . . . timey wimey . . . stuff."</em>  -- The Tenth Doctor, "Blink"</font></p> </div>
 
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origin

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<font color="yellow">I don't think this Mayan shaman could have known about the rings. The technology simply wasn't available to him. </font><br /><br />Huh? They don't have television or libraries is Central America?<br /><br /><br /> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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billslugg

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Mayan televison was slow scan with only 5 lines of resolution. Most of the lines were painted on the rear of the screen by shamans with brushes and had to be erased by hand before refreshing. Their large headdresses served as antennae. Feel fortunate, for in those days, the remote control was actually a virgin who was sacrificed any time a commercial interrupted a critical part of the show. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p> </p><p> </p> </div>
 
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billslugg

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Adrenalyn<br />How close are we to being able to resolve Saturn's rings?<br />The human eye has a theoretical resolution of 20 arc seconds.<br />Saturn can get about 746 million miles close to Earth.<br /><br />The outer edge of the A ring is 136,775 km from the center of Saturn. Rings are therefore 170,000 miles wide.<br />The maximum angle subtended by the rings is therefore arc tan 170000/746000000 or 47 arc seconds.<br /><br />I think it is possible that someone might be able to tell that Saturn was not perfectly circular. You would need someone no older than a teen with dark adapted eyes, and see if they could tell you the correct orientation of the rings.<br /><br />Bill Slugg<br /><br />I support Hillary 100%<br />(BTW that will be your new tax rate.)<br /><br /> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p> </p><p> </p> </div>
 
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adrenalynn

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I agree that they might be able to tell it's not circular. That said, seeing is going to have a LOT of impact. A warm day (like you get in the tropics all the time), a little turbulance (like you get in the tropics all the time), and Mars looks like it has rings too. With the phases of Venus in bad seeing it's guaranteed to have rings. <br /><br />When I lived in Belize I was frequently rather disappointed at the seeing. As dark as it was, you'd expect decent seeing - but it was almost always crummy. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p>.</p><p><font size="3">bipartisan</font>  (<span style="color:blue" class="pointer"><span class="pron"><font face="Lucida Sans Unicode" size="2">bī-pär'tĭ-zən, -sən</font></span></span>) [Adj.]  Maintaining the ability to blame republications when your stimulus plan proves to be a devastating failure.</p><p><strong><font color="#ff0000"><font color="#ff0000">IMPE</font><font color="#c0c0c0">ACH</font> <font color="#0000ff"><font color="#c0c0c0">O</font>BAMA</font>!</font></strong></p> </div>
 
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billslugg

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Adrenalynn<br /><br />As astronomers we are cursed. The best seeing is in the most forbidding, remote, cold, dry nasty places. When I went to Peru in '86 to photograph Halley, I spent a night at 10,000 feet far from any artificial lighting. The sky was ablaze with stars. With no moon, our surroundings were plainly visible. The main source of lighting was skyglow. It was actually very bright, very distracting. I recall a wild dog circled our camp at 100 feet distance. We kept an eye on him easily just from the skyglow. <br /><br />Bill Slugg <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p> </p><p> </p> </div>
 
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adrenalynn

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Agreed. Completely. I photographed Halleys from someplace not so far from home as your amazing trip[!!! envy!!!] (but higher altitude if a little less remote...) - in the <b>literal</b> tundra just below the peak of Mt. Humphreys in Northern Az. Within a month, I had replaced every focuser knob with great big custom made knurled (and rubberized!) knobs. To this day, all my scopes have 'em. Say hello to mitten-observing. <img src="/images/icons/wink.gif" /><br /><br />Later, we traveled out to Chaco Canyon. Again - nothing exotic like your trip, but still cold (and exciting). You know, I don't think I've even seen the Milkyway look like that in twenty years. I need to go find myself some really dark skies again. [sigh] <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p>.</p><p><font size="3">bipartisan</font>  (<span style="color:blue" class="pointer"><span class="pron"><font face="Lucida Sans Unicode" size="2">bī-pär'tĭ-zən, -sən</font></span></span>) [Adj.]  Maintaining the ability to blame republications when your stimulus plan proves to be a devastating failure.</p><p><strong><font color="#ff0000"><font color="#ff0000">IMPE</font><font color="#c0c0c0">ACH</font> <font color="#0000ff"><font color="#c0c0c0">O</font>BAMA</font>!</font></strong></p> </div>
 
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origin

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<font color="yellow">Feel fortunate, for in those days, the remote control was actually a virgin who was sacrificed any time a commercial interrupted a critical part of the show.</font><br /><br />billslugg, what are you talking about? Read the OP, this is a contemporary 'shaman'. The writer said a shaman talked to <b>him</b> about saturn.<br /><br /> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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CalliArcale

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I didn't even notice that! Thank you for pointing that out. Many apologies for creating confusion.<br /><br />Well, in that case, it would be useful for him to ask this shaman for more information. Does he mean something physical, or something spiritual? This is a shaman we're talking about, so he may not be referring to something astronomical but something metaphorical instead. From what little I know about contemporary Maya, they have strong religious associations with caverns, but I know nothing about what meanings they may ascribe to planets.<br /><br />Astronomically, it seems all of us here think the best theory is that the shaman was talking about the ring plane. He certainly could be aware of the rings; they're common knowledge nowadays, and although many Mayan groups are deeply impoverished today, and unable to live as their glorious ancestors did prior to the collapse of Mayan civilization hundreds of years ago, they do have plenty of contact with the rest of the world. He could have access to a perfectly good telescope, and/or the Internet, and/or many other sources that could let him view great images of Saturn.<br /><br />I did a little searching. Ring-plane crossings occur every 13-15 years. The last one was in February of 1996, so the next one will occur in 2010-2012. He may have been referring to this. During a ring plane crossing, the rings do not face Earth; they are seen edge on, and in many telescopes will seem to disappear completely because they are so thin. The last ring plane crossing was special in that it occurred during Saturn's equinox. The next one will occur close to Saturn's solstice. Perhaps he was referring to either the ring plane crossing or the solstice? He'd certainly have access to enough information to know about either. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p> </p><p><font color="#666699"><em>"People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly . . . timey wimey . . . stuff."</em>  -- The Tenth Doctor, "Blink"</font></p> </div>
 
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