Saturn in Scorpio Sends a Sweet Love Letter!

Please note: In 2015, after I wrote this article, my understandings of the quindecile, a 24° aspect, were born out of the new–mathematically accurate–name for the 165° aspect, now called undecaquartisextile. Please read about the Undecaquartisextile as its related aspect patterns which can be found in the Pluto – Full On series. You’ll find the Pluto – Full On series under the subcategory of Undecaquartisextile, located in the Feature Articles tab. Thanks for your patience with the modification of the name.

There’s something pretty special when Saturn sends gifts and love letters especially from the last degree of Scorpio. While many astrologers think of darkest forebodings associated with Scorpio, sometimes it’s pure magic.

This afternoon, I was trying to get motivated since the US Open and a variety of other news had distracted me from my intended goal: Several more articles here in addition to working on some other things. Saturn used NASA and my email to nudge me into action, and I finally had the perfect article for all of you! I think you’ll agree.

I happen to like Scorpio. It’s deep, intense, mysterious, fascinating to me. Mind you, I don’t care for Scorpio very much when Saturn comes through. But how can I resist a love letter from this old guy with the seven rings? That’s actually part of the story. You see, I didn’t have one letter from Saturn, I had two!

The first one said, “At Saturn, One of These Rings is not like the Others.” Now if that’s not mysterious, I can’t imagine what is! For me, it was enough to open the email to find the following story that apparently had been sent earlier in the month (thanks to NASA). While I’d managed to miss this first email coming through, I caught it quite by accident today when the second one arrived. But I want to share both with you because they’re enough to pique your interest too, I suspect:

At Saturn, One of These Rings is Not Like the Others

Of the countless equinoxes Saturn has seen since the birth of the solar system, this one, captured here in a mosaic of light and dark, is the first witnessed up close by an emissary from Earth … none other than our faithful robotic explorer, Cassini (NASA/JPL Institute)

Fast Facts:
— A study suggests the particles in one section of Saturn’s rings are denser than elsewhere, possibly due to solid, icy cores.
— The findings could mean that particular ring is much younger than the rest.

“When the sun set on Saturn’s rings in August 2009, scientists on NASA’s Cassini mission were watching closely. It was the equinox — one of two times in the Saturnian year when the sun illuminates the planet’s enormous ring system edge-on. The event provided an extraordinary opportunity for the orbiting Cassini spacecraft to observe short-lived changes in the rings that reveal details about their nature.

“Like Earth, Saturn is tilted on its axis. Over the course of its 29-year-long orbit, the sun’s rays move from north to south over the planet and its rings, and back again. The changing sunlight causes the temperature of the rings — which are made of trillions of icy particles — to vary from season to season. During equinox, which lasted only a few days, unusual shadows and wavy structures appeared and, as they sat in twilight for this brief period, the rings began to cool.

“In a recent study published in the journal Icarus, a team of Cassini scientists reported that one section of the rings appears to have been running a slight fever during equinox. The higher-than-expected temperature provided a unique window into the interior structure of ring particles not usually available to scientists.

“For the most part, we can’t learn much about what Saturn’s ring particles are like deeper than 1 millimeter below the surface. But the fact that one part of the rings didn’t cool as expected allowed us to model what they might be like on the inside,” said Ryuji Morishima of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, who led the study.

“The researchers examined data collected by Cassini’s Composite Infrared Spectrometer during the year around equinox. The instrument essentially took the rings’ temperature as they cooled. The scientists then compared the temperature data with computer models that attempt to describe the properties of ring particles on an individual scale.

“What they found was puzzling. For most of the giant expanse of Saturn’s rings, the models correctly predicted how the rings cooled as they fell into darkness. But one large section — the outermost of the large, main rings, called the A ring — was much warmer than the models predicted. The temperature spike was especially prominent in the middle of the A ring.

“To address this curiosity, Morishima and colleagues performed a detailed investigation of how ring particles with different structures would warm up and cool down during Saturn’s seasons. Previous studies based on Cassini data have shown Saturn’s icy ring particles are fluffy on the outside, like fresh snow. This outer material, called regolith, is created over time, as tiny impacts pulverize the surface of each particle. The team’s analysis suggested the best explanation for the A ring’s equinox temperatures was for the ring to be composed largely of particles roughly 3 feet (1 meter) wide made of mostly solid ice, with only a thin coating of regolith.

“‘A high concentration of dense, solid ice chunks in this one region of Saturn’s rings is unexpected,” said Morishima. “Ring particles usually spread out and become evenly distributed on a timescale of about 100 million years.’

“The accumulation of dense ring particles in one place suggests that some process either placed the particles there in the recent geologic past or the particles are somehow being confined there. The researchers suggest a couple of possibilities to explain how this aggregation came to be. A moon may have existed at that location within the past hundred million years or so and was destroyed, perhaps by a giant impact. If so, debris from the breakup might not have had time to diffuse evenly throughout the ring. Alternatively, they posit that small, rubble-pile moonlets could be transporting the dense, icy particles as they migrate within the ring. The moonlets could disperse the icy chunks in the middle A ring as they break up there under the gravitational influence of Saturn and its larger moons.

“‘This particular result is fascinating because it suggests that the middle of Saturn’s A ring may be much younger than the rest of the rings,’ said Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist at JPL and a co-author of the study. ‘Other parts of the rings may be as old as Saturn itself.’ 

“During its final series of close orbits to Saturn, Cassini will directly measure the mass of the planet’s main rings for the first time, using gravity science. Scientists will use the mass of the rings to place constraints on their age.”

But this wasn’t the original story that had caught my eye, and I was really curious now because the one above hinted at the one I was about to read.

                                                     Cassini Finds Global Ocean in Saturn’s Moon Enceladus
Global Ocean in Saturn's Moon Enceladus
A global ocean lies beneath the icy crust of Saturn’s geologically active moon Enceladus, according to new research using data from NASA’s Cassini mission.

“Researchers found the magnitude of the moon’s very slight wobble, as it orbits Saturn, can only be accounted for if its outer ice shell is not frozen solid to its interior, meaning a global ocean must be present.

“The finding implies the fine spray of water vapor, icy particles and simple organic molecules Cassini has observed coming from fractures near the moon’s south pole is being fed by this vast liquid water reservoir. The research is presented in a paper published online this week in the journal Icarus.

“Previous analysis of Cassini data suggested the presence of a lens-shaped body of water, or sea, underlying the moon’s south polar region. However, gravity data collected during the spacecraft’s several close passes over the south polar region lent support to the possibility the sea might be global. The new results — derived using an independent line of evidence based on Cassini’s images — confirm this to be the case.

“‘This was a hard problem that required years of observations, and calculations involving a diverse collection of disciplines, but we are confident we finally got it right,’ said Peter Thomas, a Cassini imaging team member at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, and lead author of the paper.

“Cassini scientists analyzed more than seven years’ worth of images of Enceladus taken by the spacecraft, which has been orbiting Saturn since mid-2004. They carefully mapped the positions of features on Enceladus — mostly craters — across hundreds of images, in order to measure changes in the moon’s rotation with extreme precision.

“As a result, they found Enceladus has a tiny, but measurable wobble as it orbits Saturn. Because the icy moon is not perfectly spherical — and because it goes slightly faster and slower during different portions of its orbit around Saturn — the giant planet subtly rocks Enceladus back and forth as it rotates.

“The team plugged their measurement of the wobble, called a libration, into different models for how Enceladus might be arranged on the inside, including ones in which the moon was frozen from surface to core.

“‘If the surface and core were rigidly connected, the core would provide so much dead weight the wobble would be far smaller than we observe it to be,’ said Matthew Tiscareno, a Cassini participating scientist at the SETI Institute, Mountain View, California, and a co-author of the paper. ‘This proves that there must be a global layer of liquid separating the surface from the core,’ he said.

“The mechanisms that might have prevented Enceladus’ ocean from freezing remain a mystery. Thomas and his colleagues suggest a few ideas for future study that might help resolve the question, including the surprising possibility that tidal forces due to Saturn’s gravity could be generating much more heat within Enceladus than previously thought.

“‘This is a major step beyond what we understood about this moon before, and it demonstrates the kind of deep-dive discoveries we can make with long-lived orbiter missions to other planets,’ said co-author Carolyn Porco, Cassini imaging team lead at Space Science Institute (SSI), Boulder, Colorado, and visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley. ‘Cassini has been exemplary in this regard.’

“The unfolding story of Enceladus has been one of the great triumphs of Cassini’s long mission at Saturn. Scientists first detected signs of the moon’s icy plume in early 2005, and followed up with a series of discoveries about the material gushing from warm fractures near its south pole. They announced strong evidence for a regional sea in 2014, and more recently, in 2015, they shared results that suggest hydrothermal activity is taking place on the ocean floor.

“Cassini is scheduled to make a close flyby of Enceladus on Oct. 28, in the mission’s deepest-ever dive through the moon’s active plume of icy material. The spacecraft will pass a mere 30 miles (49 kilometers) above the moon’s surface.

“The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, manages the mission for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California. The Cassini imaging operations center is based at Space Science Institute.”

The second story prompted me to go one step further because now I just had to see what the chart with such an announcement would show.
Saturn's Global Ocean
I’ll admit to being a bit amused at the thought that Jupiter rules this chart from its natural home, the 9th house, but in Mercury-ruled Virgo. I find this such a marvelous pairing–the natural team here with the idea of higher education, studying about other worlds. Of course it was a mission, exploring other worlds at a long distance  (yet another 9th house focus)! A love letter indeed, and the subject–Saturn, sat mysteriously in the 12th house in the last 10 minutes of Scorpio as the email went out. It was just enough to remain in the hidden places of the chart while still conjunct Jupiter’s “home sign” of Sagittarius on the Ascendant.

Take note of the Moon-Mercury conjunction still in play with the Moon making a luscious 33-minute partile opposition to Uranus on the 5th house cusp.  (Think of it:  Teach me, Papa Saturn! And teach, he is doing!) Surprising, unexpected lessons to be sure!

Pluto rising in the chart, making its final mutual reception to Saturn, each in its own sign of rulership speaks of the drama in the moment as the news is being revealed in this email. But of course everyone on the sending side would be cheering the news: Look at the Sun conjunct the Midheaven (MC) at the apex of the chart with Jupiter standing right by its side, not too close, but just enough to bless the occasion.

The Cassini mission earlier than today, of course, had sent out the first message (Mercury) about Saturn–just enough to pique some curiosity about what caused those dense solid ice chunks they had seen. Water (Scorpio) becomes ice (Capricorn).when the temperatures are cold enough. Where better than Saturn, the body we associate with coldness in the emotional sense of the word? Perhaps then Saturn and Pluto in mutual reception offered enough to whet the appetites of the folks at NASA for their interest in what was going on with Saturn’s rings where the ice chunks had been forming. And no matter whether you can associate Neptune in Pisces with water as I can, remember that Jupiter isn’t only ruling the chart, it’s opposing Neptune and squaring the Ascendant it rules! All of the heartbeat’s dynamics are here, pointing to the beauty of Neptune’s romantic side through Jupiter’s and Mercury’s love letter to us.

The Sun was making a 22-minute partile undecaquartisextile (165°) to Neptune, suggesting the fantasy, the romance, the intangible NASA seeks in this case while Mars offers yet one more quindecile to Neptune through a zealous pursuit of physical possibilities. Surely this mission has been all of that.

Seems to me we have a long-distance romance going on here, Saturn. I wonder what chapter 2 will bring. Or do you want to call this chapter 3?

Namaste, I love you.

©2015 Michelle Young