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Friday, July 28, 2006

My Saturn

The planet. Not the car.

I'm reluctant to tell certain stories lest I become someone's internet psychiatry project. But, since I'm probably already there, here goes.

I've seen things. This is just one of them. True story.

This would have been the summer of 1970, or possibly 1971. I had a regular baby sitting gig two blocks down from our house. The wife of the couple got home close to 3:00 in the morning. I phoned my dad to say I was on my way.

It was one of those nights that started out blistering hot and humid. By the early morning hours, it turned really cool, but still miserably humid.

As I walked down the middle of the street, I looked to the east and saw something that just about made me lose my breath and fall to the ground.

Beyond the houses, low on the horizon, plain as a picture in a book, was the planet Saturn. I shook my head and blinked. It was still there.

From the openness of the first intersection, I stopped to get a better look. It was definitely the planet Saturn. But, instead of being so many planets out, it appeared to be between here and the moon. (Not that I could see the moon if it was even out that night; just gauging.) Imagine the largest you've ever seen the moon with the naked eye. Multiply that by ten. No, a hundred. That's what I was looking at. With rings. But not white like the moon.

I hurried down the next block, constantly keeping my eye on the eastern horizon beyond and between the houses. I stopped again at the next intersection. I marveled at the detail of the rings. I could have counted the rings, but there were just too many. I could see the planet so clearly.

I was amazed. And in awe. And, I needed someone to share this with.

Still keeping my eye on the planet, I hustled the next half block to our house. I took one last glance at it before I bounded up the stairs of our porch. My dad was sitting in his chair when I burst through the door.

Grabbing both his hands with my hands, I nearly shouted, "you have got to see this!" That was good enough to get his attention. (I was afraid I might have to use some expletives which I knew better than to do around him.) I just about dragged him to the back of the house to look out the kitchen window to the east.

The thing was gone. There was nothing. Except the houses across the alley and darkness above and beyond. I couldn't believe it. I was stunned. The sky was vacant. I went out the back door to try and get a better view. It was just gone. Totally absent.

I tried to convince my dad to jump in the car and drive east. Unfortunately, he wanted nothing to do with it.

And that was the one and only time I saw Saturn up close. I have seen other things, though.

EDIT on September 11, 2006 to add: Just found this photo of a partially eclipsed rising moon on the NASA.gov web site. This looks like what I saw, except mine had rings.

Posted by Marie at July 28, 2006 6:30 PM

Comments

My one time seeing Saturn totally lacks the drama of your sighting, but I remember it vividly nonetheless. I was taking an intro astronomy class in college. The class had a lab, which included a certain amount of telescope work up on the roof of Angell Hall in Ann Arbor. (Of course I had the intelligence to make sure I took astonomy during Michigan's winter semester.) I was shivering as I dialed in the RA and declination for Saturn and I had a hard time finding it. But finally as I focused the telescope - Bam! - Saturn popped into view. Big and bright, rings and all. I was thrilled beyond repair. Anyway it's one of my favorite memories.
K-

Posted by: Kem White at July 29, 2006 8:31 AM

I was having some trouble with my new telescope. When I got it, I thought you just point and look. I knew nothing of spotting scopes, right ascension, declination, or any of that then. Astronomical observation is an acquired skill. As my frustration started to mount with the equipment, I set it aside for months. I went outside to get the paper one morning and noticed a brilliant yellow object in the southern sky. I dusted off the telescope and went out in the backyard and saw Saturn and those gorgeous rings through the telescope for the first time. It is my second best astronomical memory. I pointed the telescope at a patchy grey object below Orion's Belt and saw the Orion Nebula, M42, the same morning. That is my best memory. Thanks, Marie. Love your story and I hadn't thought about mine in a long time. Might have to break out the scope tonight.

Posted by: Rob at July 29, 2006 10:22 AM

Marie,

This may be your point but what you saw couldn’t have been Saturn. Saturn would never appear 10 to 100 times larger than the moon hear on earth. Nor would it suddenly disappear. Sounds like something more in the UFO category.

The post from 2004 that that you link to is interesting. You aren’t the only person I know who has seen glowing spheres moving near the ground.

Dave

Posted by: Dave at July 30, 2006 1:21 PM

I thought that perhaps someone might come along and say what I saw really could have been Saturn, but the heavy humidity (water in the air), was acting as a high powered magnifying glass - like on a telescope.

Posted by: Marie at July 30, 2006 4:39 PM

How odd.

Yet, perhaps not.

JP

Posted by: JeromeProphet at July 31, 2006 6:04 PM