Saturn

Saturn, the planet with the most visible rings, is the second largest and third brightest planet in our Solar System.

The distance from the Sun is almost unfathomable. Saturn is 1.4 billion kilometers (886 milllon miles) away from the Sun, almost twice as far as Jupiter, and almost 10 times as far as Earth.

 


Earth compared to Saturn

Size

Saturn is nine times larger than Earth at its diameter, and can fit about 737 planet Earths inside.

Density

Saturn is the least dense of all the planets, its average density is less than water. In fact, if there was a Saturn-sized swimming pool (imagine that water bill), the planet would float on it.

Gravity

Saturn has 95 times the mass of Earth. Although the mass on Saturn is greater and the density far less, the gravity on Saturn is surprisingly close to that on Earth.

Example: A person weighing 45 kilograms (100 pounds) would weigh about 48 kilograms (107 pounds) at the equator of Saturn, that is if you could get there, or even stand on the planet, which you can't, as we will see.

Surface

But Saturn has no real surface to stand on! Any attempt to do so would simply result in you falling down into the planet to eventually be crushed by pressure and melted by temperature.

A Gas Giant, Saturn is comprised of 75% Hydrogen and 25% Helium, with traces of methane and ice.

Cold

Because it is so far away from the Sun, it is no surprise that it is extremely cold on Saturn. Clouds composed of ammonia ice crystals make the cloud layer of the planet a cold -210°C (-350°F), but the average temperature of Saturn is about -180°C (-290° F).

Core

The core of Saturn is about the size of Earth.

Yes, that's right, what looks like a little marble inside of all that gas and liquid, is about as big as our planet Earth!

It is rocky, may have some ice present, and is surrounded by a liquid metallic hydrogen which is located beneath a layer of molecular hydrogen.

The core of Saturn gets to be an intense 11,700°C (21,000°F) and the planet produces more energy than it gains from the Sun.

Saturn is surrounded by a magnetic field that is about 600 times stronger than Earth's magnetic field.

 

 

Rings

What Galileo Galilei thought were two rings surrounding Saturn in 1610, actually number over a dozen.

Saturn's rings are composed of countless pieces of rock, dust, and ice that are traveling in their own orbit. These objects can be as small as a grain of salt, or as large as a few kilometers across.

Each ring orbits at a different speed around the planet.

 

 

 

Day

The length of one rotation, or a full day, on Saturn is only 10 hours and 40 minutes, not much time to fit in all our daily activities.

Rotation

Interestingly, the equator of Saturn spins faster than the rest at 10 hours and 14 minutes.

Because of this speed difference, Saturn's poles are flattened on top and the equator bulges out.

Saturn rotates so fast the material is pushed outwards by almost 10% compared to the poles.

Because of the fast rotation, Saturn has the highest winds of any planet which have been recorded as fast as 1,800 kilometers (1,100 miles) per hour. While it takes only hours to rotate on its axis, Saturn takes much longer to complete one revolution around the sun.

Year

A Saturn year is almost 30 Earth years long!

Moons

Saturn has about 60 moons, one being Titan, the second largest moon in the Solar System. Many of Saturn's moons are quite small though.

 


Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars,
the Gas Giants Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune

(Images courtesy NASA.)