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No. 17: Fall 1981

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Saturn Is Still Cooking Away

Observations from the earth and the Pioneeer spacecraft have long puzzled astronomers because they indicate that Saturn is radiating much more internal heat than it should. This anomaly leads to the outrageous possibility that Saturn is actually very young and has not cooled off as much as we would expect from theory.

The infrared detector on the recent Voyager-1 flyby seems to show that the atmosphere of Saturn possesses only about half as much helium as theory would have. The surmise is that the missing helium is still residing in the planet. This might account for some of the abnormal heat generation.

(Anonymous; "Puzzling over Saturn's Internal Heat," Eos, 62:538, 1981.)

Comment. Thus, the excess-heat anomaly may be replaced by the missing-helium anomaly. Curiously, some ancient myths refer to Saturn as the "sun of night." Could Saturn have been much brighter not too long ago?

From Science Frontiers #17, Fall 1981. 1981-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987