Page:Philosophical Transactions - Volume 095.djvu/304

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XIX. Observations on the singular Figure of the Planet Saturn. By William Herschel, LL.D. F.R.S.


Read June 20, 1805.


There is not perhaps another object in the heavens that presents us with such a variety of extraordinary phenomena as the planet Saturn: a magnificent globe, encompassed by a stupendous double ring: attended by seven satellites: ornamented with equatorial belts: compressed at the poles: turning upon its axis: mutually eclipsing its ring and satellites, and eclipsed by them: the most distant of the rings also turning upon its axis, and the same taking place with the farthest of the satellites: all the parts of the system of Saturn occasionally reflecting light to each other: the rings and moons illuminating the nights of the Saturnian: the globe and satellites enlightening the dark parts of the rings: and the planet, and rings throwing back the sun's beams upon the moons, when they are deprived of them at the time of their conjunctions.

It must be confessed that a detail of circumstances like these, appears to leave hardly any room for addition, and yet the following observations will prove that there is a singularity left, which distinguishes the figure of Saturn from that of all the other planets.

It has already been mentioned on a former occasion, that so far back as the year 1776 I perceived that the body of Saturn was not exactly round; and when I found in the year 1781