Tag Archives: Saturn

Through the Gates of the Silver Key: Chapter V, part 2: Other Worlds and Entities

In Chapter V of “Through the Gates of the Silver Key,” written by H.P. Lovecraft and E. Hoffmann Price, Randolph Carter describes how he is a “supreme archetype” of many beings on many worlds. Based on the documentation, Carter is one of the original models used to produce these other beings.  These passages are very metaphysical and I have presented hypotheses that may explain these thoughts of Carter’s. For example, these thoughts of being part of a larger “string” of consciousnesses may be Carter’s mind connecting to others in the Multiverse. An alternative hypothesis may be that these thoughts may be the result of having direct contact with Yog-Sothoth. Again, this part of Chapter V is more metaphysical than scientific so I will focus on some of the other subjects mentioned toward the end of this chapter.

yog_sothoth_over_the_bay Yog-Sothoth over the Bay by Sigmanus (www.deivantart.com)

Some of the “other” Carters could be accessed “…by a variation in the angle of the consciousness-plane which cuts it.” This passage may indicate that in order to have access to other consciousness, one has to know how to utilize those higher dimensions proposed by String Theory. One of these consciousnesses was an entity who “…dwelt in primal Hyperborea and worshiped black, plastic Tsathoggua after flying down from Kythanil, the double planet that once revolved around Arcturus.”

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Was Carter one of the non-human worshipers of Tsathoggua in ancient Hyperborea? Artwork by Mark E. Rogers

Tsathoggua is an entity that was discovered by Clark Ashton Smith and exists on Cykranosh; which to us is known as Saturn. There is some conflicting information on if Tsathoggua still dwells on Cykranosh or if it was brought to Earth by some unknown entities (Harms, 1998). There may be some type of inter-dimensional gate that connects Earth with Cykranosh, which would explain this historical confusion. Regardless, according to Carter, Tsathoggua may have originated from Kythanil and arrived on Cykranosh during the early formation of our Solar System.

saturn_aurora_hubble_28_jan_2004_med                                                                          Cykranosh, known to us as Saturn (www.nasa.gov)

As cited by Carter, Kythanil is a double planet system that once revolved around the red star Arcturus. While not officially recognized by the International Astronomical Union, a double planet system is a binary system where both bodies have planetary mass. For example, the Pluto (Yuggoth) – Charon (largest moon of Yuggoth) system can be thought of as a double planet. In fact, given the large size of our moon relative to the size of Earth, the European Space Agency has described the Earth – Moon system as a double planet. Very little is known of Kythanil expect that “doubtfully shaped” dwellers exist on this world. While Tsathoggua is frequently described as a large, sloth-like, bat creature, it is also frequently described as amorphous (e.g. black and plastic as quoted above). Thus, Kythanil may be the home world of Tsathoggua.

lovecraft___tsathoggua_idol_for_rpg_by_kingovrats-d6jht1t Tsathoggua Idol by King Ov Rats (www.deviantart.com)

Carter also mentions “…trans-galactic Shonhi, or a four-dimensioned gaseous consciousness in an older space-time continuum…” An older space-time continuum may actually refer to before the Big Bang. If there was some type of Space-Time before the Big Bang, which collapsed and exploded forming our Space-Time, how could any previously existing entity survive this? The four dimensions of the Shonhi may refer to four spatial dimensions. We exist in a three spatial dimensions / one temporal dimension Space-Time continuum. The trans-galactic Shonhi may have escaped destruction by entering a higher fourth spatial dimension.

The gaseous status of the Shonhi may be our limited three-dimensional senses trying to perceive a four-dimensional entity. This is similar to Edward Abbot’s Flatland where a two-dimensional being, like a square or circle, would have a difficult time perceiving the true form and shape a three-dimensional being like a sphere. Even if the sphere entered Flatland, passing through its Space-Time, it would appear first as a point, expand to a one-dimensional line, reach a maximum length, then decrease in length until it becomes a point and then disappears. This encounter between a sphere and a circle does not provide a true sense to the circle what the sphere actually looks like; the same may be for the Shonhi. To us three-dimensional entities a four-dimensional entity may look to us like a gas; however, the true form and shape of the Shonhi may be very different and we just don’t have the fourth dimensional senses to “see” what they really look like.

flatfl                                                                                                Attempting to perceive what a three dimensional sphere would look like in two dimensional universe

Another strange entity briefly described by Carter was the “…vegetable brain of the future on a dark radio-active comet of inconceivable orbit…” The fact that this entity is described as “vegetable” indicates it must be some form of autotroph, which is an organism that has the ability to produce complex organic compounds from simple substances. If the energy used to product these compounds is from light the mode of autotrophy is called photosynthesis, if energy is from inorganic chemical reactions it’s called chemosynthesis.

Given that the vegetable brain lives on the surface of a comet reveals that more than likely this entity is not a photosynthetic autotroph since they need light to exist. A comet in an inconceivable orbit spends the vast majority of its time in deep, dark space. As a comet comes closer to a star it does receive some of this light energy; indeed this is what produces the comet’s tail. However, the statement that the vegetable brain exists on a dark radio-active comet, provides evidence that it’s nutritional mode of action may be through chemosynthesis or possibly through a mode of autotrophy that uses radioactivity as a source of energy. For example, three specific species of fungi have been identified in the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant that exhibit higher rates of growth and assimilation of acetate when exposed to higher amounts of radiation. A similar mode of nutrition may be utilized by the vegetation brains; using the radiation emitted from the comet to break down simple organic compounds scattered on the surface of the comet. Indeed, the ESA’s Philae lander detected complex organic compounds, like amino acids, on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

1024px-Cryptococcus_neoformans_using_a_light_India_ink_staining_preparation_PHIL_3771_lores Cryptococcus neoformans, a fungus that thrives on radioactivity as a source of energy (www.wikipedia.com)

Finally, the term “dark” may also be an indication that this autotrophic entity feeds on dark matter or dark energy; however, there is no additional information to support this hypothesis.

At one point Carter mentions that observes a dim fantastic world that is in a quintuple star system “…in an unsuspected galaxy.” Carter describes a clawed and snouted race that battles burrowing inner horrors. Based on this scant piece of information it sounds like there is a predatory species that exists underneath the surface of this unnamed world.  Maybe the radiation from the five multi-colored suns is harmful to the burrowing inner horrors and they utilize the “unexplained tunnels” to reach the surface to attack and feed on the clawed and tapir-snouted inhabitants of the surface. This world illuminated by five suns, has bizarre metal towers and cryptical floating cylinders but the name of this world is not provided.

Next time we will move into Chapter VI where Carter dreams of the wizard Zkauba on the planet Yaddith. Thank you – Fred.

Discoveries on Yuggoth, Part 3 – Solar Winds Interacting with Yuggoth

In March 2016 the journal Science released a series of papers on the findings of the New Horizons Deep Space Probe as it passed by the Yuggothian (to many known as Pluto) system, located on the outer rim of our Solar System. This is the third of a series of short articles that summarizes these papers. This third article is a discussion on the interaction between Yuggoth and solar wind, charged particles and interstellar dust (Science, Volume 351, Issue 6279, 2016).

first-flybys-pluto-planets01 Artist’s rendition of New Horizons first flyby Yuggoth and one of its moons (www.nasa.gov)

One of the main objectives of the New Horizons mission was to describe the interaction between Yuggoth and its outer rim environment. Specifically, the mission was to quantify the rate at which atmospheric gases are escaping Yuggoth. The New Horizons spacecraft has three instruments designed to provide some information on these interactions on the outer rim of the solar system.

Solar winds are the stream of plasma-based, charged particles (electrons, protons and alpha particles) that escape the gravity of the sun due to their high energy and flow away from the sun at supersonic speeds. Some of these solar winds reach Yuggoth and the instruments on New Horizons estimated that their speed slows by approximately 20% on the sunward (upstream) side of the dwarf-planet. This slowing of the solar winds is largely due to Yuggoth’s ionosphere. While not directly measured, it is estimated that the electrical conductivity of Yuggoth’s ionosphere, which is sufficient to divert the solar wind.

Pluto_gases A demonstration of the solar winds reaching Yuggoth and being deflected off its atmosphere (www.nasa.gov)

Yuggoth’s atmosphere is known to be primarily composed of nitrogen (N2) with minor concentrations of methane (CH4) and carbon monoxide (CO); Yuggoth’s low gravity indicates that a large flux of these molecules should be able to escape into space. However, the cold upper atmosphere, composed primarily of methane (CH4), limits the escape of molecules into space. This substantially reduces the amount of material available for further ionization and mass-loading of the solar winds (Bagenal, et.al., 2016; this is the actual paper in Science). Additionally, as mentioned above, the ionosphere of Yuggoth can divert the solar winds away from the sun-ward size of the dwarf planet.

The net result of these conditions may be a somewhat stable stream of organic molecules, particularly methane, flow into and remaining in the upper atmosphere. Such conditions may provide favorable conditions for organisms that could feed on methane. Indeed, there are a unique group of prokaryotic organisms (bacteria) that can actually feed on methane and generate their own oxygen for survival. Such methane-eating microbes, called methanotrophs (Methylobacter oxyfera and M. mesophilicum), exist on Earth and can be found in methane-rich, oxygen-poor muds. Maybe the Mi-Go utilize a very similar mode of heterotrophy, collecting or filtering methane from the upper portion of Yuggoth’s atmosphere, as a source of energy. It should be noted we have mentioned this idea in a past article; however, the recent data collected by New Horizons helps to further support the hypothesis of a somewhat stable atmosphere environment above Yuggoth.

methanotroph.org_JCLara_UniversityofWashington                                                                                                    A transmission electron micrograph of some methanotrophic bacteria; taken by J.C. Lara at University of Washington (www.methanotroph.org).

An alternative hypothesis is that the Mi-Go have a symbiotic relationship with methanotrophic bacteria, possibly sequestering the organisms in special organs. The Mi-Go use the bacteria to harvest methane and utilize this source of carbon for energy; in turn, the bacteria get a favorable microhabitat that travels through interstellar space to other worlds. So if this is the case where could the Mi-Go have obtained some methanotrophic bacteria? Based on The Encyclopedia Cthulhiana (2nd edition by Daniel Harms; 1998) the Mi-Go first visited Earth approximately 160 million year ago. By then the Earth was oxygenated due to the photosynthesis of cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) over millions upon millions of years. In fact, Earth became oxygenated sometime around 2.4 billion years ago (www.bbc.co.uk). Thus, unless the Mi-Go who first arrived on Earth intentionally hunted for methanotrophic bacteria in the anoxic (no oxygen) muds of Earth, it would be fairly difficult to collect these organisms, so maybe they did not harvest these bacteria from the Earth.

MiGo_JbLee                            Mi-Go by Jb Lee

Mars is known to have trace amounts of methane in its atmosphere so maybe the red planet had some shallow pools or mud flats that contained methanotrophic bacteria in its past, although based on what we know about Mars this is highly unlikely. In contrast, we know Titan, Saturn’s second largest moon, is the only moon in our solar system with a dense, cold atmosphere, primarily composed of nitrogen (which is necessary in the biochemical pathways of methanotrophy) with trace amounts of methane (www.nasa.gov). In addition, more recent surveys through the joint NASA and European Space Agency Cassini mission have revealed that Titan actually has lakes and seas of hydrocarbons. These methane and ethane-filled bodies may harbor a variety of prokaryotic life that directly feeds off of these hydrocarbons. If so, it would have been a simple task for the Mi-Go to swoop down and collect some of these organisms. Once they had samples, it would be very easy for them to internally culture these bacteria in special organs and transfer sub-samples to clonal off-spring as a means of surviving in the upper atmosphere of Yuggoth, feeding on the methane.

MI-GO_monsterbrains.blogspot.com                                                                               Mi-Go (www.monsterbrains.blogspot.com)

Of course to verify such hypotheses some detailed anatomical and physiological examinations on dead Mi-Go would be required and unfortunately, being composed of matter from beyond our known universe, such investigations would be very short since this matter experiences accelerated levels of quantum decomposition.

Next time we wrap up our conversation on Ubbo-Sathla and associated implications of time travel. Thank you – Fred.

Enceladus, a Moon of Saturn with a Possible Sub-Surface Ocean

With all of the talk lately about finding water on Mars and the New Horizons photographs of Pluto and its moons, NASA’s Cassini mission to Saturn has taken a backseat. However, today (the 28th of October 2015) the Cassini spacecraft will fly just 30 miles (50 kilometers) above Enceladus, the sixth largest moon of Saturn.  Currently Saturn is known to have 62 moons (53 of them have been named; http://www.nasa.gov) but back in Lovecraft’s day the planet was thought to have only ten moons.

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Fractured geysers at the southern pole of Enceladus (NASA)

The goal of the Cassini mission is to fly through and sample one of the plumes that erupts from the moon’s southern polar region (NASA). As far as we know there is a sub-surface ocean underneath the icy crust of Enceladus.  This will be the first time in history that samples will be collected from an ocean NOT on Earth.  It will be interesting to find out what Cassini finds.

Postscript: Clark Ashton Smith’s Saturn

Unlike Jupiter, Clark Ashton Smith made a number of references to Saturn in his stories.  My estimate (by no means comprehensive) is at least six of his stories mention Saturn.  Of these six stories I have read four of them, all being very enjoyable.  For this article I will be briefly reviewing two of these stories:  The Door to Saturn and The Seven Geases.  It should be noted that these stories are not as dark and grim as Smith’s tales of Mars.  Both stories are more fantasy than science fiction and have a slightly comic tone.  In fact, Smith himself called The Door to Saturn “light and ironic” (from the Double Shadow Podcast).

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In The Door to Saturn the wizard Eibon, the closest thing Clark Ashton Smith had to a re-occurring character like HPL’s Randolph Carter, is being pursued by Morghi a priest and revival of Eibon’s.  The rest of the story involves their extremely strange adventures on Saturn, whom the residents of that world call Cykranosh.

A resident of Saturn (or as known to them Cykranosh).  This is a member of the race of Bhlemphroims (Mike Bukowki, yog-blogsoth.blogspot.com)

Eibon worships one of Clark Ashton Smith’s more recognizable Old Ones in the Cthulhu Mythos – this is the sleepy bat-sloth-like God Tsathoggua.  It is Tsathoggua who gave Eibon the “door to Saturn” to use as a means of escaping enemies.  Unfortunately the escape to Saturn was a one-way trip for both Eibon and his enemy Morghi .  This is one of my favorite Smith stories.

A sketch of Tsathoggua by Clark Ashton Smith (www.eldritchdark.com)

Another great story is The Seven Geases.  This story is sort of a journey through Clark Ashton Smith’s Mythos in his Hyperborean Cycle of stories.  I won’t go into all of the strange entities encountered in the Seven Geases but it is specifically referenced that while Tsathoggua lives underground on Earth, he originally comes from Saturn.  Back on Saturn, Eibon and Morghi meet a relative of Tsathoggua’s on Cykranosh, the very strange looking Hziulquoigmnzhah.

Gods from Cykranosh by Ikura Maru.

To conclude I highly recommend both The Door to Saturn and The Seven Geases.  Both are very entertaining with most of the first story occurring on Saturn, while the other includes one of Saturn’s most popular residents – Tsathoggua.  Next time we will talk about Uranus in the Lovecraftian Solar System.  Thank you – Fred

A sculpture of Tsathoggua by Clark Ashton Smith (www.eldritchdark.com).

 

The Use of Saturn in Lovecraft’s Fiction

HPL mentions Saturn twice in his fiction.  One is fleeting but very interesting, the other is in reference to one of the most interesting creatures created by HPL.  The first is in Pickman’s Model when the narrator, Thurber, is exposed to Pickman’s artwork.  When Thurber tries to describe Pickman’s work in one of the passages he says, “There was none of the exotic technique you see in Sidney Sime, none of the trans-Saturnian landscapes and lunar fungi that Clark Ashton Smith uses to freeze the blood.”

Pickman revealing his latest “ghoulish” masterpiece to Thurber (artist is Joshua Hoffine)

As we will be discussing in an upcoming article, Clark Ashton Smith mentions Saturn in a number of his stories.  However, in Pickman’s Model, the “trans-Saturnian landscapes and lunar fungi” may have been referring to Smith’s strange artwork, which included sketches and sculptures.  Some examples of Smith’s work is shown below and more can be found on http://www.eldritchdark.com.

Saturnian by Clark Ashton Smith (from http://www.eldritchdark.com)

Sculpture of a Young Ghoul by Clark Ashton Smith (from http://www.eldritchdark.com)

The second mention in HPL’s fiction of Saturn is in The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath.  This novel is very different than most of HPL’s other work and has more of a fantasy feel.  I will not go into the story; someday I would like to possibly to a treatise on the ecosystems of the Dreamlands but that is for another day.  In any event, in the story Earth cats rescue Randolph Carter who is imprisoned on the moon by a strange race of creatures called Moon Beasts.

A Moon Beast by Grumble Putty (daily-steampunk.com) 

In the Dreamlands cats are a fierce and proud race who help Carter out of his dilemma since he has shown a kitten some kindness in the past.  However, once they rescue him the cats are careful not to spend too much time on the moon because the one foe they fear the most likes to inhabit the dark side of the moon – the cats of Saturn.  HPL provide no other description or detail about the cats of Saturn.  We only know they are “large and peculiar” and like the “charm” of the dark side of the moon.  We also know that Terran cats are afraid of the cats of Saturn.  Since Earth cats were not afraid of Moon Beasts, the cats of Saturn must be terrifying creatures.  A few artist conceptions of these creatures are shown below.

Cat from Saturn by KingOvRats (kingovrats.deviantart.com)

A cat from Saturn (from Michael Bukowski; yog-blogsoth.blogspot.com)

Next time we will briefly discuss Clark Ashton Smith’s references to Saturn in his stories and then its on to Uranus.  Thank you – Fred.

The Lovecraftian Solar System: Saturn

“…I might remark that my tendency to endless correspondence is a relatively late growth.  In youth I scarcely did any letter-writing – thanking anybody for a present was so much of an ordeal that I would rather have written a two hundred fifty-line pastoral or a twenty-page treatise on the rings of Saturn.” – from H.P. Lovecraft Selected Letters 1929 – 1931.  Edited by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei. (Arkham House; 1971)

While the colors and textures of the planet Saturn are not a stunning as those of Jupiter, its rings make it one of the most recognizable features of the solar system.

PIA00024_modest

Saturn and two of its moons – Tethys (above) and Dione (solarsystem.nasa.gov)

Galileo was the first to identify the ring system of Saturn in July 1610, however to him the rings looked like “buldges, which he thought were a pair of “bodies” that do not move around the planet like Jupiter’s satellites – maybe Saturn was a “triple-bodied” system (The Planets, by Dava Sobel; 2005).  Sometimes he called them a pair of handles and other times he called them “ears” but he never figured out the true nature of the rings.

It was Christiaan Huygens in 1656 who figured out that the “handles” of Saturn were “a broad, flat ring nowhere touching , and inclined to  the ecliptic” (The Planets, by Dava Sobel; 2005).  HPL described how Huygens accomplished this in a number of his astronomical articles (Collected Essays: Science, Volume 3 by S.T. Joshi, 2005).

Originally Huygens thought of the ring as solid but over time the ring was observed to be composed of several bands (HPL, Ashville [N.C.] Gazette-News, 13 March 1915) and the Voyager missions identified that the rings are composed of tiny to large particles of ice and rock that are constantly bumping into each other but are still retained as ring due to the gravitational force of Saturn – 180,000 miles long but with a mean thickness of only about the height of a 30-story building (The Planets, by Dava Sobel; 2005).

Christiaan Huygens  (from http://www.famousscientists.org).

Huygens also discovered Saturn’s largest moon Titan in 1655.  From 1671 to 1684 Giovanni Domenico Cassini identified another four moons while two more were discovered by William Herschel in 1789.  Other moons were sporadically discovered over the centuries and currently the count of Saturnian satellites is at 53 (solarsystem.nasa.gov).

In HPL time, at least when he was extensively writing on astronomy, Saturn was thought to have 10 satellites, more than any other planet, five of which are visible with an “ordinary telescope” (Collected Essays: Science, Volume 3 by S.T. Joshi, 2005).  Titan is the largest moon of Saturn and the second largest moon in the solar system (Jupiter’s Ganymede is the largest moon in the solar system).

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Saturn’s moon Titan with the moon Tethys in the background.  Note the large crater, called Odysseus, on the surface of Tethys, which makes it look like the Death Star

Titan is a very unique satellite; it is the most Earth-like of any of the moons in our solar system.  It has an atmosphere and weather, as well as lakes, seas and flowing rivers but of liquid methane and ethane and not of water (solarsystem.nasa.gov).  Because of this liquid organic soup, it is thought Titan may harbor life but if so, it would be very different than life on Earth.

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An artist’s rendition of the surface of Titan (from static.naukas.com)

Next time we review how HPL used Saturn in his fiction.  Thank you – Fred.