Who discovered Saturn? Was this planet known to the ancients or is it modern science that brought it to our attention? The truth is that in the antiquity people had a far better knowledge of the sky map than we have today, and it is possible that they were familiar with Saturn by means of primitive telescopes. In fact, Galileo is widely known as the scientist who discovered Saturn in 1610, since in his descriptions he even wrote a theory about the rings. According to his words, there were some little ears on each side of the planet, and he thought they were globes. Yet, after a while, the white rings were identified and have hold their position as the most spectacular solar system formation ever since.
The globe explanation given by Galileo started from a confusion he didn’t know how to explain. He was the person who discovered Saturn, but at the same time he thought there were three planets, not one. The mystery of the rings was clarified in 1655 when Christiaan Huygens made the discovery that what Galileo referred to as globes were actually rings, butnobody could tell what they were made of until some twenty years later Domenico Cassini had a revelation. He was the one to launch the theory that Saturn’s rings were broken or discontinuous, consisting of fragments of different sizes.
Presently we are aware that the rings consist of ice, rocks and other interplanetary matter, which only proves that the early theories were right. Who discovered Saturn then? In conclusion, we have to admit that the discovery of the solar system has been in progress since we’ve started looking at the stars, and we are far from getting to the bottom. Every year seems to get something new for us to discover: thus, more than forty of Saturn’s moons have become known, some of them with potential conditions to sustain life. Thus the question is not about who discovered Saturn, but what is there more to discover?
The tribute paid to Galileo as the person who discovered Saturn is obvious, but he was not the only one. The spacecraft which captured the first pictures from Saturn was called Cassini after the scientist who revealed and analyzed the pattern of the rings around this planet. Yet, thousands of people unknown to the public are presently involved in space programs; maybe their names are not known to history, but their effort is just as great and relevant. With every space conquest, there is one other step in the direction of learning more about the universe.
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