Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun and the second-largest in the Solar System, after Jupiter. It is a gas giant with an average radius about nine times that of Earth. It has only one-eighth the average density of Earth, but with its larger volume Saturn is over 95 times more massive. Saturn is named after the Roman god of agriculture; its astronomical symbol (♄) represents the god’s sickle.
Saturn’s interior is probably composed of a core of iron–nickel and rock (silicon and oxygen compounds). This core is surrounded by a deep layer of metallic hydrogen, an intermediate layer of liquid hydrogen and liquid helium, and finally a gaseous outer layer. Saturn has a pale yellow hue due to ammonia crystals in its upper atmosphere. Electrical current within the metallic hydrogen layer is thought to give rise to Saturn’s planetary magnetic field, which is weaker than Earth’s, but has a magnetic moment 580 times that of Earth due to Saturn’s larger size. Saturn’s magnetic field strength is around one-twentieth of Jupiter’s. The outer atmosphere is generally bland and lacking in contrast, although long-lived features can appear. Wind speeds on Saturn can reach 1,800 km/h (1,100 mph; 500 m/s), higher than on Jupiter, but not as high as those on Neptune.
The planet’s most famous feature is its prominent ring system that is composed mostly of ice particles, with a smaller amount of rocky debris and dust. At least 62 moons are known to orbit Saturn, of which 53 are officially named. This does not include the hundreds of moonlets in the rings. Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, and the second-largest in the Solar System, is larger than the planet Mercury, although less massive, and is the only moon in the Solar System to have a substantial atmosphere.
Saturn is a gas giant because it is predominantly composed of hydrogen and helium. It lacks a definite surface, though it may have a solid core. Saturn’s rotation causes it to have the shape of an oblate spheroid; that is, it is flattened at the poles and bulges at its equator. Its equatorial and polar radii differ by almost 10%: 60,268 km versus 54,364 km. Jupiter, Uranus, and Neptune, the other giant planets in the Solar System, are also oblate but to a lesser extent. The combination of the bulge and rotation rate means that the effective surface gravity along the equator, 8.96 m/s2, is 74% that at the poles and is lower than the surface gravity of the Earth. However, the equatorial escape velocity of nearly 36 km/s is much higher than that for the Earth.
Saturn is the only planet of the Solar System that is less dense than water—about 30% less. Although Saturn’s core is considerably denser than water, the average specific density of the planet is 0.69 g/cm3 due to the atmosphere. Jupiter has 318 times the Earth’s mass, and Saturn is 95 times the mass of the Earth. Together, Jupiter and Saturn hold 92% of the total planetary mass in the Solar System.
Saturn has been known since prehistoric times and in early recorded history it was a major character in various mythologies. Babylonian astronomers systematically observed and recorded the movements of Saturn. In ancient Roman mythology, the god Saturnus, from which the planet takes its name, was the god of agriculture. The Romans considered Saturnus the equivalent of the Greek god Cronus. The Greeks had made the outermost planet sacred to Cronus, and the Romans followed suit. (In modern Greek, the planet retains its ancient name Cronus—Κρόνος: Kronos.)
The Greek scientist Ptolemy based his calculations of Saturn’s orbit on observations he made while it was in opposition. In Hindu astrology, there are nine astrological objects, known as Navagrahas. Saturn is known as “Shani” and judges everyone based on the good and bad deeds performed in life. Ancient Chinese and Japanese culture designated the planet Saturn as the “earth star” (土星). This was based on Five Elements which were traditionally used to classify natural elements.
In ancient Hebrew, Saturn is called ‘Shabbathai’. Its angel is Cassiel. Its intelligence or beneficial spirit is Agiel (layga) and its spirit (darker aspect) is Zazel (lzaz). In Ottoman Turkish, Urduand Malay, its name is ‘Zuhal’, derived from Arabic زحل.
Tree of Life Attribution
Saturn, the Mundane Chakra assigned to Binah is not an entirely satisfactory attribution for the Sephirah really refers to a condition of Space. In fact a far better Mundane Chakra would be interstellar space-when one realises that such space is a form. The traditional Mundane Chakra is apposite however in that Saturn is a planet with several moons and Binah is the principle behind all moon force, which is almost universally regarded as presiding over the feminine functions. Saturn is also a planet of limitation on the lower planes, astrologically considered, and yet on the higher levels it does draw down power from the Limitless Void toward the spheres of form. This corresponds well with Binah in that this Sephirah gives primal form or expression to the great stellar forces of Chokmah, drawn down through Kether out of the Unmanifest. Forces of stellar magic can therefore be contacted through Binah and the constellations of the Great and Little Bear have particular significance for this Universe as our Solar Logos is said to have undergone previous evolution on those stars we associate with these constellations. Thus in the stars of these constellations are the prototypes of evolutionary destiny of the planets of this Solar System. The Great Bear also has reference to the Round Table and the Little Bear to the Holy Grail. Investigation of the Samothracian Mysteries will prove fruitful in this sphere for they were much concerned with stellar magic. Samothrace was also a stronghold of Ama, as were certain Egyptian Temples, particularly those concerned with the ‘dark’ sides of Isis and Osiris. Isis is also, as the spouse of the priest-king Osiris. Isis is also, as the spouse of the priest-king Osiris, an excellent example of Aima, the ‘bright’ side of Binah. And the ‘dark’ side could be delegated to her companion Nephtys. It should be remembered that the dark and bright Ama and Aima, work in conjunction, being two sides of the same coin. Thus, weaving goddesses are applicable here such as the Gaelic orchil, weaving the Thread of life; with one hand spinning it up through the mould and with the other weaving it down again beneath the earth. Thus Orchil represents the dark and bright aspects within the same image. (Gareth Knight, A Practical Guide of Qabalistic Symbolism, p. 97-98)