Saturn is a fascinating and gorgeous planet to look at. It is the sixth planet from the Sun and it is the most distant planet that you can actually see with the naked eye. It is well-known for its ring system.
Let’s dive in and find out more about this amazing planet!
What you need to know about Saturn
Mass: 1,252,928,923,826,474,240 billion pounds (568,319,000,000,000,000 billion kilograms)
Equatorial Diameter: 74,897 miles (120,536 kilometers)
Polar Diameter: 67560 miles (108,728 kilometers)
Equatorial Circumference: 227,348 miles (365,882 kilometers)
Known Moons: 62
Notable Moons: Titan, Rhea, Iapetus & Enceladus
Known Rings: 30+ (7 Groups)
Orbit Period: 10,755.70 Earth days (29.45 Earth years)
Surface Temperature: -139 °C
The History of Saturn
- Saturn was first discovered in the 8th Century BC by the Assyrians.
- It was known to the ancient civilizations, including the Babylonians and Far Eastern observers
- It is named after the Roman god Saturnus, and was known to the Greeks as Cronus.
- Galileo Galilei first discovered its famous ring system in 1610.
Interesting Facts about Saturn
Is Saturn Bright?
In fact it is quite bright. It is the fifth brightest object in the solar system and you can see it through binoculars or a small telescope.
Is there anything interesting about the planet?
Well actually Saturn is the flattest planet. That sounds pretty weird. Its polar diameter is 90% of its equatorial diameter. But why? This is because of its low density and fast rotation. Saturn turns on its axis once every 10 hours and 34 minutes giving it the second-shortest day of any of the solar system’s planets.
How often does Saturn orbit the Sun?
Saturn orbits the Sun once every 29.4 Earth years. It’s certainly a slow mover. This slow movement against the backdrop of stars gave it the nickname of ‘Lubadsagush’ from the ancient Assyrians. The name means ‘oldest of the old’.
How far is Saturn from the Sun?
It’s an amazing 124 million miles (200 million kilometers) from the sun. That’s pretty far.
What is Saturn’s atmosphere made up of?
Saturn’s upper atmosphere is divided into bands of clouds. The top layers are mostly ammonia ice. Below that the clouds are mostly water ice. Even further below, the layers are made of cold hydrogen and sulfur ice mixtures.
What about storms on Saturn?
Saturn has oval-shaped storms similar to Jupiter’s. Around the North Pole it has a hexagonal-shaped pattern of clouds. Scientists think this may be a wave pattern in the upper clouds. The planet also has a vortex over its south pole that looks like a hurricane type storm.
What is Saturn made up of?
Saturn is made mostly of hydrogen. This hydrogen exists in layers that get denser as they get farther into the planet. Eventually, deep inside, the hydrogen becomes metallic. It has a very got core right in the center.
Why are its rings so famous?
This is because Saturn has the largest rings in the solar system. The rings are mostly made out of chunks of ice and small amounts of carbonaceous dust. The rings stretch out more than 74,999 miles (120,700 kilometers) from the planet. However, they are unbelievably thin at only 66 feet (20 meters) thick!
How many moons does Saturn have?
Saturn has 150 moons and even smaller moonlets. All of them are like frozen worlds. The largest of them are Titan and Rhea. Enceladus looks like it has an ocean below its frozen surface.
What is Titan’s atmosphere like?
Titan is a moon with a complex and dense nitrogen-rich atmosphere. It is made up mostly of water ice and rock. Its frozen surface has lakes of liquid methane and landscapes covered with frozen nitrogen. Scientists think that Titan could possibly have life on it, but not Earth-like life.
How many space missions have been to Saturn?
Four spacecraft have visited Saturn including:
- Pioneer 11
- Voyager 1
- Voyager 2
- Cassini-Huygens which continues to orbit Saturn.
As Cassini still orbits the sun this gives scientists plenty of information about the planet, its moon and its rings.
What are the rings of Saturn made of?
They are made of billions of icy particles which are all very different in size. Some of them are tiny grains while others are miles across.
More about Saturn’s rings
There are 14 major divisions in Saturn’s rings. There are 12 rings and 2 gaps. These are the D Ring, C Ring, B Ring, Cassini division, A Ring, Roche Division, F Ring, Janus/Epimetheus Ring, G Ring, Methone Ring Arc, Anthe Ring Arc, Pallene Ring, E Ring and Phoebe Ring.
The F Ring is actually kept in place by two of Saturn’s moons, Prometheus and Pandora. They are called the shepherd moons. Other satellites create these divisions too as well as shepherding them.