Saturn is sometimes called “The Jewel of the Solar System.” It is a planet that is nothing like our own. Humans have been gazing up at Saturn for a long time. They have been wondering about it for thousands of years.
Here are some fun facts about the Ringed Planet.
Saturn is huge. It is the second largest planet in our Solar System. Jupiter is the only planet that is bigger.
The rings are huge but thin. The main rings could almost go from Earth to the moon. Yet, they are less than a kilometer thick.
Four spacecraft have visited Saturn: Pioneer 11, Voyager 1 and 2, and the Cassini-Huygens mission have all studied the planet.
Saturn has oval-shaped storms similar to Jupiter’s: The region around its north pole has a hexagonal-shaped pattern of clouds. Scientists think this may be a wave pattern in the upper clouds. The planet also has a vortex over its south pole that resembles a hurricane-like storm.
Saturn is made mostly of hydrogen and helium: It exists in layers that get denser farther into the planet. Eventually, deep inside, the hydrogen becomes metallic. At the core lies a hot interior. (click the image for a better resolution).
Saturn has 62 moons: Some of these are large, like Titan, the second largest moon in the Solar System. But most are tiny – just a few km across, and they have no official names. In fact, the last few were discovered by NASA’s Cassini orbiter just a few years ago. More will probably be discovered in the coming years.
Saturn orbits the Sun once every 29.4 Earth years: Its slow movement against the backdrop of stars earned it the nickname of “Lubadsagush” from the ancient Assyrians. The name means “oldest of the old”.
In Saturn there is aurora: Photographic composition made by the Hubble Space Telescope showing the occurrence of aurora in the southern hemisphere of Saturn at intervals of two days.The aurora is visible only in the ultraviolet.
Saturn spins on its axis very fast. A day on Saturn is 10 hours and 14 minutes.
You can see Saturn with your own eyes: Saturn appears as one of the 5 planets visible with the unaided eye. If Saturn is in the sky at night, you can head outside and see it. To see the rings and the ball of the planet itself, you’ll want to peer through a telescope. But you can amaze your friends and family by pointing out that bright star in the sky, and let them know they’re looking at Saturn.