Reading Rings in the Sky

You voyaged in the trail of pioneers,

To shed new light on Saturn and its rings;

By imaging its many circling spheres,

We glimpsed into the past of Earthly things.


Your Equinox and Solstice both burnt bright,

Revealing lightning in the darkest night;

And through your Grand Finale in the sky,

Your sacrifice means you shall never die.

Saturn’s northern hemisphere in 2016 (Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute).

I was the poet in residence for the European Geosciences Union 2018 General Assembly, during which time I wrote a number of different poems about the inspirational research that was presented there. This is one of my favourites, a Heroic Rispetto, inspired by the EGU 2018 Union Symposium on the Cassini-Huygens Mission to Saturn.

Over a period of 13 years, Cassini successfully returned a huge amount of data that has since been used to enhance our understanding of Saturn and its system, including in-situ sampling of Saturn’s upper atmosphere, and high-resolution imaging of Saturn, its rings, and several of its many moons.

Cassini was a collaboration between NASA, ESA, and the Italian Space Agency, and the two different phases of the Cassini mission were termed Equinox and Solstice, ending with a dramatic plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere on September 15, 2017, with the spacecraft continuing to record and transmit data until the very end.

An audio version of this poem can be heard here.

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