Guide to the planets…Saturn

A natural colour view of the planet Saturn dur...

A natural colour view of the planet Saturn during equinox. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fact file

  • sixth planet from the sun (distance from the sun: 885, 904, 700 miles)
  • has a large ring system containing many moons
  • gas giant- large atmosphere containing mainly hydrogen and helium
  • average surface temperature: -178 degrees C
  • length of year: 10, 759 days
  • length of day: 10 hours, 39 minutes
  • number of moons: 52

Saturn is the sixth planet from the sun and the second largest planet in the solar system, after Jupiter. Like Jupiter, Saturn is a gas giant planet. It’s atmosphere is massive,  making up most of the planets’ total volume. the atmosphere consists of mainly hydrogen and helium. Saturn had a volume that is 755 times larger than that of Earth.  Winds in the upper atmosphere of Saturn can reach 500 meters per second. Along with the heat rising from Saturn’s’ interior, these winds are the cause of the yellow and gold bands that are visible in Saturn’s’ atmosphere.

Saturn’s most famous feature is its distinctive ring system. These rings extend hundreds of miles from Saturn itself and are made of water ice. This makes them highly visible as the ice reflects most of the light that lands on it.  Their are also several ‘gaps’ in between the rings called divisions. these can be created by moons which orbit in these regions. Saturn’s rings can be seen through a small telescope in good detail. They are well worth seeing.

Saturn has 52 moons each of which is unique. Titan is Saturn’s largest moon and the second largest moon in the solar system. It is a touch bigger than Mercury.  Titan has a thick atmosphere of nitrogen and has liquid methane on its surface that has formed lakes and seas.  Enceladus is covered in ice and has ice volcanoes on its surface. fractures appear on the surface allowing huge plumes of vapors to escape into space.  Mimas has a massive 80 mile crater on its surface. This impact that occurred millions of years ago is thought to have come close to destroying Mimas.

Saturn and some of its moons and its rings can be seen through a small telescope on a clear night. In the sky the planet appears as a ‘bright star’ to the naked eye.

Sources

  • information on Saturn sourced from:   http://science.nationalgeographic.co.uk/science/space/solar-system/saturn-article.html
  • photo credit: wikipedia
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