NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day 2015 June 21 

Rings and Seasons of Saturn 

On Saturn, the rings tell you the season. On Earth, today marks a solstice, the time when the Earth’s spin axis tilts directly toward the Sun. On Earth’s northern hemisphere, today is the Summer Solstice, the day of maximum daylight. Since Saturn’s grand rings orbit along the planet’s equator, these rings appear most prominent – from the direction of the Sun – when the Saturn’s spin axis points toward the Sun. Conversely, when Saturn’s spin axis points to the side, an equinox occurs and the edge-on rings are hard to see. In the featured montage, images of Saturn over the past 11 years have been superposed to show the giant planet passing from southern summer toward northern summer. Although Saturn will only reach its northern summer solstice in 2017 May, the image of Saturn most analogous to today’s Earth solstice is the bottommost one.

Ancient moon priestesses were called virgins. ‘Virgin’ meant not married, not belonging to a man - a woman who was ‘one-in-herself’. The very word derives from a Latin root meaning strength, force, skill; and was later applied to men: virle. Ishtar, Diana, Astarte, Isis were all all called virgin, which did not refer to sexual chastity, but sexual independence.

And all great culture heroes of the past, mythic or historic, were said to be born of virgin mothers: Marduk, Gilgamesh, Buddha, Osiris, Dionysus, Genghis Khan, Jesus - they were all affirmed as sons of the Great Mother, of the Original One, their worldly power deriving from her. When the Hebrews used the word, and in the original Aramaic, it meant ‘maiden’ or ‘young woman’, with no connotations to sexual chastity.

But later Christian translators could not conceive of the ‘Virgin Mary’ as a woman of independent sexuality, needless to say; they distorted the meaning into sexually pure, chaste, never touched.

—  Monica Sjoo, The Great Cosmic Mother: Rediscovering the Religion of the Earth

Celebrating Midsummer with the Bard!

From our stacks: Pictured above, illustrations from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, taken from The Plays Of Shakespeare.  Edited and annotated by Charles and Mary Cowden Clarke. Vol. 1 - Comedies. Illustrated by H.C. Selous. Cassell, Petter, and Galpin, London, 1866.

Summer begins in the northern hemisphere Sunday June 21 at 12:38 p.m. EDT. At that moment the Sun is directly above a point in the Caribbean Sea, on the northern tropic at west longitude 69° 03’. That’s 717 miles east by south of Miami, Florida, and 410 miles north northwest of San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Learn more from the Sky Reporter