Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the planet Saturn with its rings of ice and rock and over 60 moons. In 1610, Galileo used an early telescope to observe Saturn, one of the brightest points in the night sky, but could not make sense of what he saw: perhaps two large moons on either side. When he looked a few years later, those supposed moons had disappeared. It was another forty years before Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens solved the mystery, realizing the moons were really a system of rings. Successive astronomers added more detail, with the greatest leaps forward in the last forty years. The Pioneer 11 spacecraft and two Voyager missions have flown by, sending back the first close-up images, and Cassini is still there, in orbit, confirming Saturn, with its rings and many moons, as one of the most intriguing and beautiful planets in our Solar System.


Carolin Crawford
Public Astronomer at the Institute of Astronomy and Fellow of Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge

Michele Dougherty
Professor of Space Physics at Imperial College London


Andrew Coates
Deputy Director in charge of the Solar System at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory at UCL.

Release date:

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43 minutes

Last on

Thu 14 Jan 2016 21:30

Related topics


Carolin Crawford at the University of Cambridge

Michele Dougherty at Imperial College London

Andrew Coates at University College London

NASA – Jet Propulsion Laboratory - Cassini

NASA - Cassini

European Space Agency - Cassini-Huygens

European Space Agency – Science & Technology: Cassini-Huygens

‘Enceladus’ by Andrew Coates (from McGraw-Hill Yearbook of Science & Technology, 2010) – AccessScience

‘Icy plumes bursting from Saturn’s moon Enceladus suggest it could harbour life’ by Andrew Coates – The Conversation

Saturn – Wikipedia



Robert Brown, Jean-Pierre Lebreton and J. Hunter Waite (eds.), Titan from Cassini-Huygens (Springer, 2009)

Michele Dougherty, Larry Esposito and Stamatios Krimigis (eds.), Saturn from Cassini-Huygens (Springer, 2009)

T. Gehrels and M. Matthews, Saturn (University of Arizona Press, 1984)

Kenneth R Lang, The Cambridge Guide to the Solar System (Cambridge University Press, 2011)

Ralph Lorenz and Jacqueline Mitton, Titan Unveiled: Saturn’s Mysterious Moon Explored (Princeton University Press, 2008)

McGraw-Hill Yearbook of Science & Technology (McGraw-Hill, 2010), especially chapter on Enceladus by A. Coates

Michael Meltzer, The Cassini-Huygens Visit to Saturn: An Historic Mission to the Ringed Planet (Springer, 2015)

I. Muller-Wodarg, C. A. Griffith, E. Lellouch and T. E. Cravens (eds.), Titan: Interior, Surface, Atmosphere and Space Environment (Cambridge University Press, 2014)


Role Contributor
PresenterMelvyn Bragg
Interviewed GuestCarolin Crawford
Interviewed GuestMichele Dougherty
Interviewed GuestAndrew Coates

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