Like fellow gas giant Jupiter, Saturn is a massive ball made mostly of hydrogen and helium. Surrounded by more than 60 known moons, Saturn is home to some of the most fascinating landscapes in our solar system. From the jets of water that spray from Enceladus to the methane lakes on smoggy Titan, the Saturn system is a rich source of scientific discovery and still holds many mysteries.
The farthest planet from Earth discovered by the unaided human eye, Saturn has been known since ancient times.
The planet is named for the Roman god of agriculture and wealth, who was also the father of Jupiter. Size and Distance. With a radius of 36, If Earth were the size of a nickel, Saturn would be about as big as a volleyball. From an average distance of million miles 1. One astronomical unit abbreviated as AU , is the distance from the Sun to Earth. From this distance, it takes sunlight 80 minutes to travel from the Sun to Saturn. Orbit and Rotation. Saturn has the second-shortest day in the solar system. One day on Saturn takes only Its axis is tilted by This means that, like Earth, Saturn experiences seasons.
Saturn took shape when the rest of the solar system formed about 4. About 4 billion years ago, Saturn settled into its current position in the outer solar system, where it is the sixth planet from the Sun. Like Jupiter, Saturn is mostly made of hydrogen and helium, the same two main components that make up the Sun. Like Jupiter, Saturn is made mostly of hydrogen and helium. At Saturn's center is a dense core of metals like iron and nickel surrounded by rocky material and other compounds solidified by the intense pressure and heat.
It is enveloped by liquid metallic hydrogen inside a layer of liquid hydrogen—similar to Jupiter's core but considerably smaller. It's hard to imagine, but Saturn is the only planet in our solar system whose average density is less than water. The giant gas planet could float in a bathtub if such a colossal thing existed. The planet is mostly swirling gases and liquids deeper down. The extreme pressures and temperatures deep inside the planet crush, melt and vaporize spacecraft trying to fly into the planet.
Saturn is blanketed with clouds that appear as faint stripes, jet streams and storms. The planet is many different shades of yellow, brown and grey. Winds in the upper atmosphere reach 1, feet per second meters per second in the equatorial region. In contrast, the strongest hurricane-force winds on Earth top out at about feet per second meters per second.
And the pressure—the same kind you feel when you dive deep underwater—is so powerful it squeezes gas into liquid. Saturn's north pole has an interesting atmospheric feature—a six-sided jet stream. This hexagon-shaped pattern was first noticed in images from the Voyager I spacecraft and has been more closely observed by the Cassini spacecraft since. Spanning about 20, miles 30, kilometers across, the hexagon is a wavy jet stream of mile-per-hour winds about kilometers per hour with a massive, rotating storm at the center.
How Did Jupiter Shape Our Solar System?
There is no weather feature like it anywhere else in the solar system. Potential for Life. Saturn's environment is not conducive to life as we know it. The temperatures, pressures and materials that characterize this planet are most likely too extreme and volatile for organisms to adapt to. While planet Saturn is an unlikely place for living things to take hold, the same is not true of some of its many moons. Satellites like Enceladus and Titan, home to internal oceans, could possibly support life.
Saturn is home to a vast array of intriguing and unique worlds. From the haze-shrouded surface of Titan to crater-riddled Phoebe, each of Saturn's moons tells another piece of the story surrounding the Saturn system. Currently Saturn has 53 confirmed moons with nine additional provisional moons awaiting confirmation.
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Saturn's rings are thought to be pieces of comets, asteroids or shattered moons that broke up before they reached the planet, torn apart by Saturn's powerful gravity. Jupiter has 79 confirmed moons. Jupiter's four largest moons—Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto—were first observed by the astronomer Galileo Galilei in using an early version of the telescope. These four moons are known today as the Galilean satellites, and they're some of the most fascinating destinations in our solar system. Io is the most volcanically active body in the solar system.
Ganymede is the largest moon in the solar system even bigger than the planet Mercury. A liquid-water ocean with the ingredients for life may lie beneath the frozen crust of Europa, making it a tempting place to explore. Discovered in by NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft, Jupiter's rings were a surprise, as they are composed of small, dark particles and are difficult to see except when backlit by the Sun. Data from the Galileo spacecraft indicate that Jupiter's ring system may be formed by dust kicked up as interplanetary meteoroids smash into the giant planet's small innermost moons.
The Jovian magnetosphere is the region of space influenced by Jupiter's powerful magnetic field. It balloons , to 2 million miles 1 to 3 million kilometers toward the Sun seven to 21 times the diameter or Jupiter itself and tapers into a tadpole-shaped tail extending more than million miles 1 billion kilometers behind Jupiter, as far as Saturn's orbit. Jupiter's enormous magnetic field is 16 to 54 times as powerful as that of the Earth.
It rotates with the planet and sweeps up particles that have an electric charge. Near the planet, the magnetic field traps swarms of charged particles and accelerates them to very high energies, creating intense radiation that bombards the innermost moons and can damage spacecraft. Jupiter's magnetic field also causes some of the solar system's most spectacular aurorae at the planet's poles.
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Jupiter and Saturn, AMAZING FACTS about Our Solar System
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