The planet Saturn has intrigued astronomers for centuries. Since it was first seen through a powerful telescope in the 17th Century, scientists have wondered what Saturn is made of, and how its rings came to be. Fortunately, nowadays we know a lot more about Saturn than we ever have before, after four successful missions. So, let’s look at some of the best Saturn facts.
- Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun, only Uranus and Neptune are further away.
- Saturn has a radius of 36,183.7 miles (58,232 kilometers), which makes it the second largest planet after Jupiter.
- Saturn’s mass is 95x that of Earth. It is heavier than most other planets by a long distance, but it still only has 1/3 the mass of Jupiter.
- The overall color of the planet Saturn is yellow mixed with a brownish haze.
- Sometimes, Saturn appears as if it has a blue coloring in images, however this is typically just due to the lighting.
- Saturn is an estimated 886 billion miles (150 billion kilometres) away from the Sun.
- One full day on Saturn is equal to 10.56 hours on the planet Earth.
- However, a full year on Saturn is equal to 29 years on the Earth; this is how long it takes to orbit the Sun.
- To do this, Saturn moves at a speed of over 6 miles (10 kilometres) per second.
- The surface gravity on Saturn is the most similar to Earth of all the planets – it’s approximately 107% that of Earth. This means a 200lb man would weigh 214lbs on Saturn, so no much difference.
- Saturn takes its name from the Roman God of Agriculture. The Greek equivalent of Saturn is named Cronos.
Though we aren’t 100% sure that Jupiter or Saturn have a solid inner core, it’s generally accepted that it’s very likely they do have something solid in their center. Like most other planets, this is likely made up of iron and nickel, surrounded by rock.
The two gas giant planets don’t really have the typical inner core, outer core, mantle and crust like with the terrestrial planets. Outside of the core of Saturn is likely a metallic hydrogen, which is probably actually in liquid form. Then outside of this, there is another thicken layer of molecular hydrogen, in gas form. There is no solid surface on the outer edges of Saturn.
The Atmosphere on Saturn
The atmosphere on Saturn is made up primarily of hydrogen, with small amounts of helium too. Along with this, there are trace amounts of other gases like methane, and water ice. Like Jupiter, Saturn is subjected to storms and heavy winds, with their Great White Spot being an example of this. These storms can be thousands of miles wide, and on Saturn, they reach speeds of over 1,100mph (1,700km per hour).
Like Jupiter, there are trace amounts of ammonia in Saturn’s atmosphere, which give it very similar stormy weather.
In 2019, twenty more moons were found to be in orbit of the planet Saturn. This brings the entire total up to 82 moons, which is the most of any planet. Of course, there are still more to be found. Of Saturn’s moons, the most well known are;
The biggest of Saturn’s moons and the second biggest in our solar system. It’s 50% larger than the Earth’s moon.
Enceladus is covered in fresh ice. This helps to make it one of the most reflective objects in our entire solar system.
Mimas takes it’s name from the Greek giant, son of Gaia. It is 246 miles in diameter.
Iapetus is the 3rd largest moon of Saturn, discovered by Italian-French astronomer Giovanni Cassini.
Hyperion is known for it’s strange shape, and was founded all the way back in 1848.
Phoebe is another irregular shaped moon of Saturn. It was the first stop for one of the Saturn missions, Cassini.-Huygens.
Dione is also sometimes referred to as Saturn VI, named after the Greek Titaness.
Rhea is the second largest moon of Saturn, and the 9th largest moon overall.
The rings around Saturn are the largest of any planet in our solar system, and when you about Saturn, typically most people associate it with it’s rings. However, Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune all have rings too, so it isn’t something exclusive to Saturn.
Saturn’s rings are particularly impressive, however. Made up almost completely of water ice and rock particles, they are essentially made up of debris from asteroids and comets, and potentially moons that have come into contact with the planet itself.
We think that the rings of Saturn are somewhere between 10 million and 100 million years old, which is quite young considering that Saturn formed with the rest of the Solar System 4.5 billion years ago. If you use a good telescope, you can actually see the rings of Saturn.
More Facts about Saturn
- Like Jupiter, Saturn’s atmosphere is made up of primarily hydrogen with a small amount of helium (Saturn has a bit more hydrogen and a bit less helium than Jupiter, though).
- Although it isn’t proven, we think that the core of Saturn is similar to that of Jupiter, with an iron center.
- The average temperature on Saturn is -178°, making it one of the colder planets.
- Although on it’s surface Saturn is cold, the inner core of Saturn is extremely hot.
- 20 more moons were added to Saturn’s moon count in 2019. That means Saturn now has 82 moons, the most of any planet.
- Saturn is well known for it’s ring system, which is the largest in the Solar System.
- Saturn’s rings are 240,000 miles way (400,000km) wide, which is approximately the distance between the Earth and our moon. There are hundreds of rings, if not more than one thousand.
- Even though Saturn is far away in the distance, it is still possible to see it without a telescope on occasion.
- Although it is the second largest, Saturn has the lowest density out of any of the planets.
Common Questions about Saturn
Is Saturn a failed star?
A common question about both Saturn and Jupiter is whether they are failed stars, or a failed Sun. This is because they’re largely made up of the same properties as stars, hydrogen and helium. The issue with both of these planets is that they don’t have enough mass to actually create the temperature required to shine like a star does. So, some people refer to Saturn as a failed star, but it doesn’t have anywhere near the mass to be considered anything near a star, to be honest.
Is Saturn losing its rings?
Astronomers think that in the next 100 million years, Saturn will have lost some, if not all of it’s rings. This is because eventually, the rings will be pulled into Saturn by it’s gravity, causing them to disappear.
Who discovered Saturn?
Saturn has been known to humans for thousands of years, dating back to the Babylonians and Ancient Greece – we can find writings about Saturn in different cultures, including ancient Chinese culture. However, when we’re talking about Saturn being seen properly through a telescope, we generally look to Galileo Galilei in the 1600s as the first person to really see Saturn.
Does Saturn rain diamonds?
With lightning on Saturn is more than 10,000x the power of the lightning on Earth; this lightning transforms methane gas into large clouds of soot. The pressure applied to this soot is so much that the soot literally transforms into diamonds. However, these diamonds won’t last forever, and they’ll eventually become liquified.
Does Saturn have water?
In our search of the solar system for water, Saturn is one that many people ask about, even though it’s more than a billion kilometres away from Earth. Saturn does actually have trace amounts of water amongst it’s hydrogen and helium body, as well as iced water across it’s rings.
Overall, Saturn is undoubtedly one of the most interesting planets in our solar system. Aside from the fact that it rains diamonds and has the biggest rings of any planet, we also know less about it than we do other planets, which adds to the mystery a little. If you have any questions about Saturn, please leave a comment below.