Facts About Saturn: Rings, Temperature & Size

Instructor: Jeff Fennell

Jeff has a master's in engineering and has taught Earth science both domestically and internationally.

Saturn is the sixth of the eight planets in our solar system. Saturn is a gas giant that is most famous for the rings that orbit it. This lesson will cover the properties of Saturn.

Facts

Composition

With a diameter of 120,536 km, Saturn is the second largest planet behind Jupiter. When compared to our planet, Saturn is nine times larger than Earth. Along with Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune, Saturn is a 'gas giant', also sometimes referred to as Jovian planets.

Saturn is composed mainly of hydrogen and helium, along with a small amount of trace elements. The formation of Saturn led to the atmosphere blending into the surface, which can contain ice. The inner core is composed of rock. The atmosphere of Saturn consists mostly of hydrogen, helium, and methane. The atmosphere of Saturn gives it its distinctive golden bands of orange and yellow. The surface of Saturn is fluid and has an average density of only 0.70 g / cc, making it the least dense of all the planets. For comparison, if you were to put Saturn in water, it would float.

Saturn has a significant ring system, consisting mostly of ice particles, debris and small rock particles. Titan is largest Of Saturn's 53 known moons. In fact, Titan is the largest moon in the solar system. With a diameter of 5,150 kilometers, it is even bigger than the planet Mercury.

Saturn
saturn

Orbit

Like other planets, Saturn orbits the sun in an elliptical plane. It orbits the sun from a radius of about 9.54 astronomical units, or 1.4 billion kilometers. Saturn's orbit around the sun takes approximately 29.5 years to complete. While a Saturn year is long, a day on Saturn is shorter than here on Earth and only takes 10 hours and 14 minutes to complete one rotation.

Like Earth, Saturn also has four seasons, although each season on Saturn is seven years long. Due to its distance from the sun, the average surface temperature is believed to be about -178 degrees Celsius, although it is difficult to measure.

Rings

The first astronomer to observe the rings of Saturn was Galileo in 1616. His homemade telescope captured both sides of Saturn along with its rings. Although, Galileo never did understand it was rings he was looking at. A half century later, using a larger telescope, Christiaan Huygens was able to discern that the object Galileo had described was in fact rings around Saturn.

Christiaan Huygens
huygens

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