The planet with rings, the sixth planet from Sun, Saturn is the one of the most beautiful planets in our entire Solar System. It is not that Saturn is the only planet to possess rings but its rings are by far the most majestic of all! They are extremely prominent and have been featured in many Hollywood movies. The rings of this gas giant has intrigued scientists for years and extensive studies have been conducted but the origin of the rings still remain a mystery. Let us today learn 30 interesting Saturn facts and gain some knowledge about this extraordinary creation of universe.
Interesting Saturn Facts: 1-10
1. Saturn is the second largest planet in our Solar System. The 1st spot being captured by Jupiter.
2. Saturn is the 6th planet from Sun and is a gas giant. It is in fact, one of the four gas giants that live in our Solar System. The other three being Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune and these other three gas giants too have planetary rings but not as prominent as that of Saturn.
3. Saturn is a Roman name. In Greek mythology we find Cronus, who is considered to be the lord of Titans. Saturn is just the Roman name for Cronus.
4. The day ‘Saturday’ in a week derives its name from this planet.
5. We said that Saturn is a gas giant but how big is it? Well, the planet is big enough to hold 760+ Earths! This means that Saturn has a mass that’s roughly equivalent to 95.16 times the mass of Earth. No other planet in our Solar System except Jupiter is bigger than Saturn.
6. When it comes to the density of planets, Saturn takes the last spot. It is tad less dense than water with its density falling short of water by 1. This means that Saturn can easily float on water.
7. As far as the atmospheric composition of the planet is concerned, it is mostly made of molecular hydrogen which accounts for 96.3% of the total atmosphere. 3.25% is taken by helium while ammonia hydrosulfide aerosols, ammonia ice aerosols, ice aerosols, ethane, ammonia, methane and hydrogen deuteride are present in trace amounts.
8. The magnetic field of Saturn is nearly 578 times as powerful as that of our Earth.
9. Scientists believe that the innermost core of the planet is made of rocky material and iron. Surrounding this core is an outer core made of methane, ammonia and water. The third layer is the liquid metallic hydrogen in highly compressed form.
10. This third layer is covered by a fourth layer of viscous helium and hydrogen. This fourth and final layer gradually becomes gaseous at it moves towards the surface of the planet and eventually merges with the atmosphere of the planet.
Interesting Saturn Facts: 11-20
11. Scientists say that the core of Saturn is nearly 10 to 20 times bigger than that of Earth.
12. The total mass of Saturn is 568,319,000,000,000,000 billion kg which is nearly 95.16 times the mass of Earth.
13. The polar and equatorial diameters of the planet are 108,728 km and 120,536 km respectively. The planet has an equatorial circumference of 365,882 km.
14. From the Sun, Saturn is located at a distance of 885,904,700 miles or 1,426,725,400 km, which is 9.53707 times the distance of Earth from Sun.
15. The closest Saturn gets to Sun (Perihelion) is 838,519,000 miles or 1,349,467,000 km and the farthest it can get away from Sun (Aphelion) is 934,530,000 miles or 1,503,983,000 km.
16. Saturn shows extraordinary golden and yellow bands in its atmosphere. These bands are caused by the combination of heat emanating from the planet’s interior and superfast winds blowing in its upper atmosphere. Around the equator, this wind can reach a speed of 1,800 kph or 1,100 mph.
18. The superfast spin of the planet makes it bulge at the equator and flatten at the poles. The width of the planet at equator is 7,337.151 miles or 11,808 kilometers greater than the width from one pole to another.
19. The planet completes one revolution around Sun in 29.4 Earth years. The slow movement of the planet against a starry backdrop earned it the name ‘Lubadsagush’ from the ancient Assyrians. In English, the name translates to ‘oldest of the old’.
20. Galileo Galilei was the first ever person to look at Saturn using a telescope in 1610. His telescope was not powerful enough but he did notice ring-like structures around the planet that eventually turned out to be real rings. However, Saturn is the most distant planet visible to naked eyes from Earth and was first noted by the Assyrians.
Interesting Saturn Facts: 21-30
21. The existence of thin flat rings was later proposed by Dutch Astronomer named Christiaan Huygens who used a more powerful telescope compared to that of Galileo.
22. Saturn has the most incredible planetary ring system in entire Solar System. There are actually several rings. The largest known ring of the planet is nearly 200 times the diameter of Saturn. Rings are made of water ice and small amounts of rocks and carbonaceous dust.
23. The objects that make up the rings vary in size. With smallest particles being the size of a sugar grain and the largest ones being as large as a house. The rings fan out to a distance of 120,700 kilometers from the planet’s atmosphere but the main rings are only 30 feet thick.
24. Saturn’s ring system is extremely complex. The ring system consists of ringlets, braided rings and spokes. There are gaps between different rings.
25. Scientists aren’t very sure about the age of the rings. While some say that they are extremely old and that they have existed since the formation of the Solar System some 4.5 billion years ago, others argue that neatness of the rings suggest that they are no more than 100 million years old and were probably formed by a huge ice moon torn into pieces by the gravitational tug of the planet.
26. An interesting thing about the ring system of Saturn is that they disappear occasionally. Well, they don’t really disappear but only appear to vanish away. This happens because of its tilted axis. As the planet moves through space around the Sun, the rings appear to disappear at certain times as we can only see the edges of the rings. Other times, these rings show up in full glory. The last time the rings appeared to disappear was in 2008-2009 and will probably disappear again in 2024-2025.
27. Cassini-Huygens spacecraft revealed that some of the rings have weird formations. They have particles piling up in ridges and bumps that extend up to 2 miles high in space.
28. After Jupiter, Saturn has the second highest numbers of moons in entire Solar System. At least 62 moons are there.
29. Because the gas giant was itself named after the Greek Mythology’s lord or Titans, its moons are also named after several Titans of Greek Mythology. Some of the moons also take names of the descendants of those Titans and also the names of Norse, Inuit and Gallic myths.
30. The most notable moons of Saturn include Enceladus, Rhea and Titan. Titan is the largest moon of the gas giant and is the second largest moon in entire Solar System. The credit for largest moon of Solar System goes to Ganymede of Jupiter.
5 Bonus Saturn Facts
32. Titan is one of the most studied moon of Saturn. Scientists have found out that the moon’s atmosphere is rich of nitrogen. The moon is primarily composed of rock and water ice.
33. Scientists believe that underneath the frozen surface of Titan lie lakes of liquid methane. They also found that the frozen surface of the moon also has frozen nitrogen. Many scientists believe that Titan may support life but nothing like that on Earth.
34. Other moons of Saturn are pretty bizarre. Enceladus for instance spews out chemicals and water – a phenomena known as ‘ice volcanism’.
35. Lapetus, another moon of Saturn has one side dark as coal and the other side bright as snow. Atlas and Pan are two other moons that have shape like flying saucers. Pandora and Prometheus are known as Shepherd Moons because they keep interacting with the ring materials of the planet and keep those material in orbit.