Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 51.djvu/369
THE PLANET SATURN.
feet in height; the aster, dandelion, and the bright-eyed little Hypericum, or "Saint John's-wort," formerly used in certain parts of Europe as a charm against evil spirits. In sandy places, on the edge of the woods, grows the curious "horsetail," or telescope reed, sometimes known as "file-grass," as the rough, furrowed stalks were once used for polishing purposes. Being without true or visible blossoms, this plant belongs with the ferns, mosses, and other cryptogams, and is said to have deteriorated from the coal ages.
Toward the end of September a change creeps over the face of Nature, and a solemn hush heralds the approach of autumn. The great, towering yew tree clothes itself with scarlet berries, and the dry, yellow leaves of the maple flutter downward through the quiet air, the chokecherry dons a robe of scarlet, and ripens clusters of astringent fruit of an equally vivid hue; the deciduous azaleas drop their foliage into the sparkling river, and the dogwood and poison oak assume a garb of solferino, while the continual dropping of pine cones breaks the silence of the mountain forest. Then the snow falls like a fleecy blanket, and winter sets in, with its rigors of ice and sleet.
DOUBTLESS many observers of the sky are familiar with the planet Saturn as he slowly moves through the constellations from year to year, but how many of them stop to think of the wonders and mysteries connected with this far-off member of the solar system? Very few, probably; and yet this planet is well worth a closer acquaintance, for, as Prof. Langley says, "In all the heavens there is no more wonderful object than the planet Saturn, for it preserves to us an apparent type of the plan on which all the worlds were originally made."
Saturn was the remotest planet known to the ancients, and it was probably on account of his sluggish motion along the sky that a malignant influence over human affairs was attributed to him by the astrologers. This slow movement is only apparent, however, for he is really bowling along through space more than twenty thousand miles every hour; but such is his distance from us that we can scarcely detect any change of position from night to night, and must wait thirty years for him to make his circuit of the heavens.In point of size Saturn stands next to Jupiter, the "giant of the solar system," and upon his diameter nine earths could be