Saturn, Lord of the Rings

Contributed by
Jul 9, 2008

To the unaided eye, Saturn doesn't look like much. It appears to be just another "star" -- brighter than most, but still just starlike. In fact, you can see for yourself: over the next few days, go outside right after sunset and look west. You'll see two of these "stars" very close together. One is Mars, the other Saturn. It's hard to tell which is which: from a few hundred million kilometers away, Saturn's signature rings are invisible with just your eye.

That's too bad. Saturn's ring system is magnificent, and amazing. But if we can't go to Saturn to see the rings, the least I can do is bring the rings here to you.

And so I present the fourth in the series of short astronomy videos I've been making with director Tom Lucas. Saturn, Lord of the Rings is now up in high-definition goodness on (if you're in the US), and we've also simulposted it on YouTube. I've even embedded it here, like Pandora and Prometheus in the F Ring:

This one was fun to make. We filmed it at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science -- which is also the place that managed the making of the black hole planetarium show, which Tom produced and directed and on which I served as Science Consultant. So it was nifty to go back and see the place again. They have an incredible planetarium, and that image of Saturn you see behind me in the video was actually being projected in real time on the dome as we shot it. It was a fully controllable 3D rendering, so we could spin it, zoom in, revolve around it, everything. Very cool stuff. If you're in the area, treat yourself to the DMNS. They do good work... and Splendid Elles is there too for a bonus!

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