The sixth planet from sun, Saturn is the second largest planet in the solar system. Galileo was the first one to observe it with a telescope in the ancient times, though he was confused by its odd appearance when he saw it in 1610. But as time went by and telescopes became more powerful, astronomers and planet watchers came up with more details about its most prominent feature: the rings. This fascinating planet with its ginormous and beautiful rings is a real stunner in the solar system. No wonder it has been the centre of attraction among the astronomers since its discovery and much has been explored about it. Giant and odd looking, Saturn has some spectacular features. The following part will give you a peek into Saturn and will tell some interesting facts about it: from some basic features to some specific details. Read all about it in here.
Distance From Sun: 1,427,000,000 km
Distance From Earth: 1195.5 x 106 (Minimum) and 1658.5 x 106 (Maximum)
Mean Radius: 58,232 km
Mean Circumference: 365,882.4 km
Volume: 827,129,915,150,897 km3
Mass: 5.6831 x 1026 kg
Density: 0.687 g/cm3
Surface Area: 42,612,133,285 km2
Surface Gravity: 10.4* m/s2
Length of Day: 0.444 Earth days/10.656 hours
Length of Year (Orbital Period): 29.447498 Earth Years/10,755.70 Earth Days
Number of Moons: 53
Provisional Moons: 9
Average Orbit Velocity: 34,701 km/h
Orbit Inclination: 2.49 degrees
Orbit Circumference: 8,957,504,604 km
Average Temperature: -178 °C
Interesting And Fun Facts On Saturn
- Hydrogen and Helium constitute for most of Saturn, just like Jupiter.
- The volume of the Saturn is 755 times greater than the Earth.
- Saturn is the most oblate of all the planets which means its equatorial diameter (120,536 km) is greater than the polar diameter (108728 km).
- Saturn looks flattened if viewed through a small telescope.
- The magnetic field of Saturn is 578 times powerful than Earth’s; however, it is not as strong as Jupiter’s.
- Saturn is the least dense planet, having a specific gravity of 0.7 which is less than water.
- The winds in the upper atmosphere of Saturn, in the equatorial region, reach 500 m per second whereas the strongest winds on Earth top at about 110 m per second.
- These winds along with the heat rising from within planet’s interior make visible the yellow and gold bands in the atmosphere.
- Saturn spins on its axis very fast which is the reason why a day on Saturn is only of 10 hours and 14 minutes. However, the revolution of Saturn around the sun is very slow and a year on Saturn is more than 29 Earth years.
- It was NASA’s Pioneer 11 which visited Saturn for the first time.
- The interior of Saturn has a rocky core similar to that of Jupiter, a liquid metallic hydrogen layer and a molecular hydrogen layer. Traces of different types of ice are also present.
- The interior of Saturn is hot and radiates more energy into space than it receives from the sun.
- The rings of Saturn are much brighter than the rings of other planets.
- The rings which look unbroken from Earth are actually composed of numerous small particles, each in an independent orbit; the size of the particles range from a centimetre to several metres and a few kilometres.
- Saturn’s rings are mainly made up of water ice, as discovered by two spacecrafts of NASA: Voyager 1 and the Voyager 2.
- Images taken by these spacecrafts also revealed ‘braided’ rings, ‘ringlets’ and ‘spokes’ which are dark features in the rings that circle the planet at different rates from that of the surrounding ring material.
- The ring system of Saturn extends hundreds of thousands of kilometres from the planet. However, surprisingly, its vertical depth in the main rings is just around 10 m.
- During Saturn’s equinox in 2009, when sunlight illuminated Saturn’s main rings, the Cassini spacecraft was able to take images of vertical formation in the rings, particles of which seem to compile together in bumps or ridges of more than 3 km tall.
- Saturn has 53 known natural satellites, or moons, and 9 provisional moons. But there probably are many more moons waiting to be discovered.
- Each of Saturn’s satellite is unique in its features. Take this for example: the Enceladus shows evidence of recent and ongoing changes, while Lapetus has hemisphere darker than asphalt and the other as bright as snow.
- Titan, the largest moon of Saturn is a little bigger in size than planet Mercury. Titan is also the second largest moon in the solar system; only Jupiter’s moon Ganymede is bigger than it.
- Titan’s atmosphere is thick and nitrogen rich; it is believed to be similar to what Earth’s atmosphere was during the early stages of formation.
- Many of Saturn’s own rings and satellites lie within its own magnetosphere, which is to say that they are influenced more by Saturn’s magnetic field than by solar wind.
- The division between the rings which are now called the A and B rings was founded by Italian Astronomer Jean Dominique Cassini in 1675. It is now referred to as Cassini Division and is 3,000 miles wide.
- It is believed that the gravitational influence of Saturn’s moon Mimas is responsible for the Cassini Division.
- The Huygens spacecraft descended through Titan’s atmosphere in January 2005, collecting data on the atmosphere and surface.
- The Cassini spacecraft, which continues to orbit Saturn, has returned 200,000 images by July 2009.
- Saturn is easy to spot in the night sky because it is not as bright as Jupiter and doesn’t twinkle like stars. Its rings and larger satellites are visible with a small astronomical telescope.
- Interestingly, the root from which the English word Saturday was named is from Saturn.