what to see on
the rings of saturn

For a scenic view, and an answer-page for Guess The World...

mini-world in the rings of saturn

rings of saturn from within

This river bottom seemed a gray sand. But we could not maintain footing. The water was empty—by which I mean there was no marine vegetation here—nothing that we could grip with our hands. And from behind us, the current wafted us gently but irresistibly forward.

I soon discovered that normally we would float in an upright position. We held ourselves so with our toes occasionally touching the soil, bouncing along like feathers in a gentle breeze.

The scene around us now more resembled a misty gray day on one of our sandy Earth-deserts than anything else I can call to mind. The ground was undulating gray sand, sloping upward to one side, and with a steady incline downward in front. And down this slope we were blowing.

Swim, you say? It never occurred to either of us! We were frightened; we clung to each other, striving to remain upright.

Very soon the light from overhead seemed to deepen. But other light—the diffused light inherent to the water itself—grew brighter by contrast. We were swept for¬ ward much faster—and down a much steeper hill. I know now that the change was caused by the river having plunged into that cliff-face, to become subterranean.

How far we were carried I cannot say. A mile perhaps. Or more. Rocky cliffs now seemed to pen us in; it was as though we were in a steep canyon, with a powerful wind driving us down through it.

Then abruptly we came to the end of the canyon. Open country lay before us. There were hills in the distance, with the level floor of the sea between us and them. Long stalks of vegetation reared themselves up through the water—so high that I could not see to their tops—slender spires of growing things, rooted below, branching out above with huge air-bladders to keep them floating—the whole waving slowly to and fro. On some of them there seemed what you might term fruit.

Ray Cummings, The Man on the Meteor (Future Combined with Science Fiction, October 1941; Science and Invention, Jan-Sept 1924)

>>  Guess The World - Fourth Series

Comment by contributor Lone Wolf:
I don't know how exactly to classify this story from exactly one century ago - it's neither on a planet, a moon, an asteroid or a comet and I wonder whether it would be suitable for GTW...  That's probably one of the most bizarre stories I've read - it is set upon and inside a small body, called "meteor", which is one of the little fragments, that compose the rings of Saturn, but it is described as a whole world (according to the author it has only five miles in diameter, but it seems much bigger from inside, as he describes it). It has not only atmosphere and life, but an underground sea in great caverns inside with breathable and luminescent water, where live two intelligent races of four-armed aquatic humanoids - the "Marinoids" and the "Maagogs" (the latter name, together with that of the main bad guy "Og" are obviously inspired by the biblical Gog and Magog as interpreted in the medieval legends). Quite original indeed, but it stretches my ability to suspend disbelief a bit too much: although the gravitation is supposed to be only .00039 that of Earth (and it should be even less in the water inside), there is still up and down (since he speaks about floor and roof of the caverns, the fall of one of the tower-like arboreal city of the Marinoids, etc.), it's not clear from where comes the water in the underground streams he describes and how it flows "down", also there is mentioning of "days" and "months" as measure of time, although there is no change of light in the luminescent water inside the "meteor" (well, he speaks of a "sleep time" as an equivalent to night, but if there is no diurnal cycle, the living beings there wouldn't have any common circadian rhythm), etc. In the end it turns out that the whole story was written by a patient in a mental institution, found wandering without memory in an American city and it never gets clear who the human protagonist originally was, how he found himself on the "meteor" and then got back to the Earth, which is a bit disappointing. But I guess, this story still deserves attention because of the originality of its setting.

malevolent vapour in the rings of saturn

When he awoke and looked out, a thrill of discovery claimed him.  A misty fog obscured the outer entrance of the hermitage.  With little criss-crossing radium ray ejectors installed outside the port and operated from within, he cleared the obstruction to his vision and looked out.  The derelict was covered with a snowy mantle which was alive as it billowed and twisted.  He knew that this mantle was but the surging outer rank of the crowding material which had forced itself unrestrained inside the City of Fomar and was greedily exploring all nooks and crannies, assimilating anything of organic origin it touched.  Even the cable holding the ship to the hermitage was covered with the strange stuff.

Jasper realised a snug sense of security.  He no longer feared the white mist.  He was curious.  He wondered if there was any connection between the return of the white entity and the recent upheaval among the moonlets.  Had the malignant cloud caused the commotion, or had the latter event aroused and stimulated the mist?  Jasper wondered where the mist went and what it did when it was not clustered about the derelict and his moonlet.  He decided to experiment with it…

Neil R Jones, Hermit of Saturn's Rings (Planet Stories, Fall 1940)

>>  Guess The World - Fourth Series

a cable between moonlets in the rings of saturn

Ten minutes later the great shadowy sphere that was the Saturn mainland was shrinking in the distance. Ahead, through the plane's front view-plate, the Ring arced across the heavens, a pastel rainbow against the outer night. Night here was never complete blackness; the Ring's sprinkling of radium moons gave a glow one could read by even at midnight.

Ten minutes more and he abruptly threw the ship into a shuddering bank, skirted a looming planetoid, dived to a precarious landing on its neighbor. He dragged a spare radio set from under his seat and with it in his hand jumped out of the ship and ran to a large tree on which one end of a heavy cable was tied.

The other end of the cable stretched up and away from the planetoid and out across the misty void—to the neighboring globe which was so heavily jungled that there was no place to land a plane. Flint climbed into the dangling cable chair, holding the radio in his lap, and pushed himself out across the wire, away from the planetoid, over the sheer drop ten miles under his feet.

Seconds later—things happened fast with this feather gravity—the other world moved up under him and he dropped lightly to its surface.

The trail he took through the woods was more like a tunnel, and the little clearing that soon appeared was like a well, the moon lights filtering through.

Carl Selwyn, Space Bat (Planet Stories, Winter 1946)

>>  Guess The World - Fourth Series

Comment from contributor Lone Wolf:
Another crazy story about Saturn's rings, even crazier than The Man on the Meteor. It is set in a world which is so completely impossible by all known physical laws, that it would take too long just to enumerate all its impossibilities - here the planetoids of the rings not only have atmosphere and life, but they are inside the Saturn's extended atmosphere (which is breathable, of course!) like some cosmic archipelago and they can be reached by mere plane flight in just about an hour! But it's fascinating nonetheless (too bad there isn't more of the story - I can quite see it made into a comic or a cartoon). 

Comment from Zendexor:
Inter-world aeroplane flight reminds me of Burroughs' system of Poloda (Beyond the Farthest Star) and Bob Shaw's inter-world balloon-flights in his The Ragged Astronauts trilogy.  A wonderfully exploitable notion.