Saturn is considered the most beautiful objects in the sky (with exception to Shruti, of course). Since the beginning of time (or just a long long time ago in a galaxy far far awayÖ), man has been able to see the beautiful, gorgeous, exquisite, ravishing, radiant planet Saturn with the naked eye.
In 1610, Galileo Galilei became the first person to see Saturn with a telescope. Through the telescope, Galileo saw what he called "ears" on the planet. These "ears" would disappear and reappear from time to time. It wasnít until 1655 when Christian Huygens, using a better telescope, clarified what Galileo was talking about. Huygens saw that the "ears" were actually rings around the planet. And as Saturn traveled around the sun, the angle at which Huygens saw the rings at changed causing them to reappear and disappear.
Saturn has a diameter of about 75,000 miles (120,000 kilometers) and orbits around 886,000,000 miles away from the Sun. This makes it the second largest planet in the solar system and the sixth planet from the Sun. Because it is so far away from the Sun, one Saturn year is actually 29.5 Earth years (Imagine how long it would take to turn 16 and start driving if we lived on Saturn! Be glad youíre here on Earth!). However, the length of a day on Saturn is significantly shorter- only 10.5 hours! This is because Saturn is spinning at a really (really) fast speed. Saturn is not a solid planet like Earth or the other inner planets. In fact, if we were to land on Saturn, we would most likely be landing on an "ocean." Because it is not solid and is rotating at such a high speed, the liquid material has a tendency to move to the equator. As a result, Saturn is the most oblate planet. In other words, Saturn has a big potbelly. Earth also has a slight potbelly- its equatorial diameter is about 13 miles (20.8 kilometers) wider than its polar diameter. However, Saturn is 7,500 miles (12,000 kilometers) wider at its equator than at its poles. When looking through a telescope, Saturn will appear to be a stout, portly planet. (But thatís ok. Beauty comes in all sizes!) ATMOSPHERE:
Saturnís atmosphere is composed mainly of hydrogen (97%) and helium (3%). Mixed in with the two gases are also methane, deuterium ammonia, ethane, ethylene, acetylene, and phosphine. The high percentage of hydrogen would not support human life.
The atmosphere is divided into three different cloud layers. The upper layer is made up of frozen ammonia crystals. The middle layer contains ammonium hydrosulfide. The lowest layer is made up of water ice crystals.
Some scientists believe that there is no real change between Saturnís atmosphere and itís actual surface. They believe that if one were to travel down through the atmosphere, it would gradually begin to get more and more dense until it became a liquid. Some say this liquid could be counted as Saturnís "surface." If one were to continue even more, the liquid would eventually become the core of the planet. GREAT WHITE SPOT:
Yes, Saturn has a Great Spot too. Think Great Red Spot, only whiteÖ. First observed closely by the Hubble Space Telescope, the Great White Spot is also a storm of large anticyclonic cells driven by the planetís internal heat source. However, it is smaller than Jupiterís spot and is not a long-life storm like the Great Red Spot. In fact, in the past two centuries, around 20 Great White Spots have been discovered. The spots usually lasted from days to months, but never as long as the Great Red Spot.
Saturnís weather is not quite as balmy as Earthís. The usual forecast includes a surface temperature of 135 Kelvin and 500 meters per second (1,800 kilometers per second) winds blowing west to east at the equator. But if youíre located above or below the equator, it begins to change directions. The Sun is not as bright on Saturn of course. But the clouds on Saturn are a sight to see (speaking from experience, of courseÖ j/k). The clouds on Saturn, made up of ammonia crystals, are not quite as colorful as Jupiterís and slightly fainter, but still very interesting. Depending on the pressure in the area, the clouds are divided into dark bands (low pressure) and light zones (high pressure). These bands and zones alternate to create separate colors in the sky. Unlike Jupiterís clouds, which are affected by Jupiterís strong gravitational pull, the clouds on Saturn are spread out over a very large range of 300 kilometers. Because of this, the colors of the clouds are not as brilliant as Jupiterís.
Like Earth, Saturn also experiences auroras. Earth experiences northern lights (aurora borealis) and southern lights (aurora australis). But unlike Earth, Saturn experiences these auroras at mid and high latitude location as well as at the poles.