Saturn is called the jewel of the solar system, a planet that can be seen with the naked eye and which people have spent centuries tracking and gazing at, probing the heavenly body at every occasion. Here’s 22 interesting facts about Saturn for you to discover:
Saturn is the 6th planet from the Sun. It is the most distant planet that people on Earth can see with the naked eye. It stands roughly at 1,420,000,000 km from the Sun.
Saturn is the second-largest planet in the solar system, boasting an equatorial diameter of 120,500 km, and a polar diameter of 108,000 km.
Saturn has a mass of 5.68 x 1026 kg, which is roughly 95 Earths.
The winds on its surface travel at 1,800 km/hr. This makes Saturn’s winds the fastest in the entire solar system.
Saturn constitutes hydrogen (75%) and helium (25%). There are trace amounts of ammonia, water, and methane, not to mention some sort of rock. As you descend into the planet, the hydrogen layers start becoming denser, eventually taking on a metallic form. The core is rocky and hot.
Because of its makeup (primarily hydrogen), its density is less than that of water. This makes it the least dense planet in the solar system.
The planet looks flat. In fact, it is the flattest of the planets. You can blame this on its rapid rotation and the impact it has on Saturn’s fluid state.
It takes Saturn 29.4 Earth years to complete its rotation around the Sun. This makes a year on Saturn the equivalent of 29.4 years on Earth.
There are oval-shaped storms on Saturn. This is similar to the oval-shaped storms on Jupiter.
Saturn is renowned for its rings. It has over thirty of them categorised into seven groups. Saturn’s ring system is the most extensive in the entire solar system.
Saturn’s rings are classified using the letters of the English alphabet. They range from A to G. The classifications are assigned to the rings based on the order in which they were discovered. Groups A, B, and C are the most visible from our planet.
Scientists believe that these rings were formed when tidal waves destroyed a medium-sized moon within the planet’s orbit.
The rings are made of tiny ice particles, dust, and debris. The rings are incredibly thin, just 20 metres in thickness. This is despite the fact that the largest among them is 7,000 times Saturn’s diameter.
It takes the planet 10 hours and 34 minutes to fully rotate on its axis. This is the duration of a day on Saturn.
The planet has 150 moons, with the largest, Titan, being the second-largest moon in the solar system. It only loses out to Jupiter’s Ganymede in size. These moons are frozen and rocky.
Saturn’s atmosphere has an outer layer of ammonia crystals that are responsible for its yellow appearance.
It has a weaker magnetic field than Jupiter and the Earth. It has a surface temperature of -139 degrees celsius.
Historical Saturn facts
Saturn was first recorded by the Assyrians in the 8th Century BC.
Its name comes from Saturn, the Roman god of agriculture. The Greeks call this deity Cronus.
Galileo observed the planet in 1610 but he wasn’t sure what he was looking at. His rudimentary telescope couldn’t make sense of the rings which, to him, looked like arms or ears.
The Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens eventually identified the rings in 1655 with his superior telescope. He also discovered Titan.
NASA’s Pioneer 11 was the first craft to visit Saturn. That was in 1979. Since then, three other spacecraft have gone to Saturn. The first three just flew by. Cassini in 2004 actually went into Saturn’s orbit.
Do you know any fun or interesting facts about Saturn that we’ve missed? Share them here in the comments section below!