Friday, November 14, 2008

Alchemical Suspicions Of Beauty Without Terror

Tom Stallard, of the University of Leicester, said: “It’s not just a ring of aurora like those we’ve seen at Jupiter or Earth. This one covers an enormous area across the pole. “Our current ideas on what forms Saturn’s aurora predict that this region should be empty, so finding such a bright one here is a fantastic surprise.” The image shown on the left is a composite displaying the aurora, illustrated in blue, the planet’s hot interior, rendered in red, and clouds, which appear as black silhouettes. [Saturn’s polar light show mystifies scientists]

I’ve read scientists have observed
inexplicable aurora
over the north pole of Saturn.
Strange lights in someone else’s sky.

We have aurora here on Earth.
They’re just particles from the Sun
glowing, trapped by magnetism
at the fringe of the atmosphere.

Theories account for certain types
of auroral displays. Sometimes
theories need revising. Sometimes
big theories need revising, too.

Saturn according to theory
lacks mass for fusion reactions.
The planet can’t burn hydrogen,
can’t ignite, can’t become a star.

But I wonder if the strange lights
glowing above Saturn’s north pole
might foreshadow other strange things,
might foreshadow strange lights for us.

Saturn is in Leo. Some say
the Sphinx was once a huge lion
later generations re-carved
to the image of a pharaoh.

Many thousands of years ago
when Saturn was in Leo then
did ancient people see strange lights
in their sky? Did Saturn ignite?

Saturn is dim in our sky now
but if you look very closely
the planet is still beautiful,
still ringed and still mysterious.

Saturn according to theory
doesn’t periodically blaze,
ignite into a second Sun
then dim again to a planet.

But there are many ancient myths,
tales of battles among the ‘gods’
and Saturn, though dim in our sky,
was a god to ancient people.

If Saturn somehow did ignite
our evenings would become as bright
as heavy overcast sunlight.
‘Lucifer’ means ‘Bringer of Light.’

Only a couple of letters,
one phonetic transformation,
differentiate the two words,
the word ‘Saturn,’ the word ‘Satan.’

Saturn according to theory
is the sixth planet from the Sun
and just a planet, not too strange.
And even strange auroral lights

are just particles from the Sun
trapped by Saturn’s magnetic field
high up in Saturn’s atmosphere.
There are aurora on Earth, too.

But I will reveal a secret:
In casual conversations,
in emails that don’t get posted,
professional astronomers

are just as intrigued by the thought
of a low-mass star igniting
among the outer gas giants
as are fans of science fiction.

And, of course, alchemists suspect
we’ve never stopped walking among
shadows of ancient myths still here,
still lit by strange lights in the sky.

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Through Trees And Clouds, Beauty Without Terror

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