Facts about Saturn
Of course Earth is beautiful, but Saturn should certainly stand up and take a bow for its beauty too, with those awesome rings that we can see. It’s a gas giant which gives it plenty of extreme physical landscapes and atmospheric conditions.
What you need to know about Saturn
- It’s the second largest planet in our solar system after Jupiter and more than 9 Earth’s could line up against it.
- Saturn has a small rocky core which is covered with liquid gas.
- It is surrounded by a whole heap of rings that stretches out into space for thousands of kilometres. They sure are impressive.
- What are the rings made from? They’re made up of millions of ice crystals, some as big as houses and others as small as specks of dust. Wow, that’s amazing.
Saturn is very light. This is because it’s made up of more hydrogen than helium so it’s less solid. If you could fit Saturn into a bathtub it would float, but how in the world would we find a bathtub that big? Perhaps start building one and enter the Guinness World Records!
- Just like Jupiter, Saturn has loads of moons which surround it.
- As stunning as it looks, Saturn is certainly not a peaceful planet. Storm winds race around the atmosphere at 800km per hour. That’s seriously fast. A plane flies at speeds of about 900 km per hour and these are almost just as fast!
- You can see three of Saturn’s rings from the Earth using a telescope. When the US Voyager space craft went on a mission in the 1980s they sent back photographs where they found more rings than they originally thought there were.
- Saturn is the last planet that can be seen without using a telescope or binoculars and the planet was known in the ancient world before telescopes were invented. If you want to see the rings though, then get that telescope out.
- Galileo first saw the rings in 1610 through a telescope.
- Saturn has at least 18 moons, which are like satellites that orbit around the planet drawn to it by its gravity.
- Titan, the largest of the moons is the second largest in the solar system, after Ganymede, Jupiter’s moon. Titan is larger than Earth! It is also the only moon in the Solar system which has an atmosphere. The atmosphere is made up of nitrogen and methane.
- Saturn is named after a Roman God. Saturn was a rather mysterious God but it is believed that he was the God of sowing seed and of the harvest.
- Saturn weighs more than 95 times than Earth!
- It is 142,750km in diameter. That’s pretty large if you ask us! Imagine how long it would take to drive that distance.
- Saturn is 1,426,000km from the sun. It also takes 29 ½ years to make its way all around the sun.
- Just like Jupiter, Saturn spins much faster on its axis than Earth. One rotation for the Earth takes 24 hours, but Saturn takes just 10 hours. It must have a rocket launcher to help it on its way; a massive one too!
- Because it spins so fast, you find seriously strong hurricane-like storms, which are far, far stronger than anything ever seen on Earth. There is a constant whirlwind storm at Saturn’s South Pole, but you can only see this with a very strong telescope.
The rings all orbit Saturn at different speeds and have gaps between them. In 2010 a spacecraft from NASA, called the Cassini mission, went between rings and is now orbiting Saturn. The instruments on board the Cassini spacecraft are sending back valuable information all the time. Hopefully this will help scientists understand these awesome rings even more.
How big are the rings? Well some of them are about 242,000km in diameter and some are really small at only a couple of hundred metres thick.
Where did the rings come from? Well nobody actually knows. Maybe they’re from material that was left over when the planet formed, or maybe they’re even the remains of moons that were destroyed.
This is awesome. Sometimes the rings of Saturn just disappear. This is because of the tilt of Saturn and the fact that some of the rings are quite thin. Every 14 years, the rings look like they’ve just gone! When Galileo discovered Saturn, of course he didn’t have as advanced equipment as we do now, and when they disappeared he thought he was going completely mad!
Wouldn’t it be great for scientists to find out more about those awesome rings that surround this planet, and then we would know what they were all about. But for now, you should know all there is to know about Saturn.