Thursday, January 12, 2006

music of the spheres, or long nerd ramble, or bear with me

I know that you knew it. But I didn't really suspect, and I'm sure Allison didn't see the full danger. The dangers of a telescope in Rod's possesion. You know if I can wax metaphorically over a simple moon ring, I am bound to drive you nuts with a telescope. Consider yourself forewarned. But I just know if you can bring yourself to wade through this nonsense with me, you'll find it fascinating too.
Yesterday, Al and I went to the gym separately, as time allowed, to try to allow time together after Church stuff last night. Time didn't allow for her to squeeze in a workout between things, so she went after all was done last night. Having already been there, I came home and dragged the telescope out into the front yard to play while she was gone. The kids were still up so I thought I'd wow them with Saturns rings. I also thought it'd be nice to really bring it in large and close, so I set up the computer and aligned the telescope so that it would track and we could actually see Saturn before it moved out of view in less than 5 seconds at 392x. It was worth it. The kids were blown away. "It looks just like a toy hung there in the dark." It really does. Like the artist's renderings from your grade-school science books.
Last week when I was looking, I had to use 26mm eye piece and a barlow lens, which allowed me 196x. Any more power and I couldn't keep it in view long enough to focus. Last night that wasn't a problem while it tracked, and we saw way more than I expected.
When I spotted with the planet with the 26mm piece, it was small and plastice and bluish, but very clear. It is tilted toward us so the rings are amazingly clear and separated from the planet. When I changed eye pieces and added the Barlow, it was huge and showed surface colors and the separation of ring bands were very easy to see. We could also see three of the moons. Needless to say, we marveled for a long while until I had to send the kids to bed. All this in the light of a nearly full moon shining directly overhead.

Back in November, I posted about a moon ring that was so beautiful that a friend called to make sure I was outside looking at it. It was a mensural metaphor for me. Tonight, while we were at Salmon Springs Church, the same friend called to ask a question, but never mentioned the moon. Nevertheless, when we got home, the nearly full moon had a beautiful ring around it. I should have known, from the phone call. From now on, a moon ring will call to mind a particular friend, and I will always pray God's timing on him.
While I thought about this coincidence, and the rambling metaphorical blog I wrote in November, I thought about peculiar facts I've learned about some of the things I've seen this week.
As you know, our own moon is tidally locked, meaning that it rotates at the same speed it orbits earth. That means we always see the same face of the moon. But did you know that is VERY common. All but 2 of Saturn's moons whose orbital rates are known, rotate synchronously. This is a very interesting fact because it is caused by their affects on one another, in the same way that the earth and moon affect one another.
But there is more. The moons themselves have relationships that are called orbital resonance. Saturns moons tend to operate in pairs in this way. The period of the orbit of the moon Mimas is exactly half that of Tethys, or a ratio of 1:2. Enceladus-Dione are also 1:2; Titan-Hyperion are in a 3:4 resonance. Jupiter's moons Ganymede, Europa, and Io are in a 1:2:4 orbital resonance. Pluto seems to stay attached to us because it is in 3:2 resonance with Neptune.
So, I think I understand this correctly, it would seem that most of the satellites in the Solar System are tidally locked to their primary (moons to planets), AND many are in orbital resonance with other satellites.
Normally, I don't think I'd be such a nerd about this if I weren't already such a nerd about the musical phenomena that it so closely resembles. Namely, the ratios of the orbital resonance are also the ratios of the first four partials of the harmonic series. These ratios produce the intervals of the octave (2:1), the fifth (3:2), and the fourth (4:3). The Pythagoreans, realizing this musical bit, theorized that all of nature worked the same and that the planets' spacing followed this simple mathematical plan as well. They whooshed through space, the closer ones faster than the further ones, but in ratios of speed that produced harmonic swooshes.
Not so far off, huh?
So I've sat here tonight, looking up, thinking of Mimas and Tethys singing an octave, Neptune and Pluto singing a fifth, Titan and Hyperion are singing a fourth, and Ganymede, Europa and Io, a double-octave.
It strikes me that one vibrating object will sympathetically cause another object to vibrate according to one of these ratios, and that tidal lock and orbital resonance are caused by objects acting on one another, and the result being harmonious.
I think probably, we are meant to have the same affect on one another. I think that we are meant to grow to spin and orbit at the same speed so that as satellites, we always face our primary, and move in orbital resonance with one another.
Perhaps then our songs would be born of our way of being. Our going out and coming in, and our rising up and laying down would produce music that brings pleasure to our primary, and one to another.
It seems that all the rest of creation does it.

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