Mass: 1.25 x 10 (27) lbs.
Diameter: 74,898 miles
Mean density: 43 lbs./ ft(3)
Escape Velocity: 79,400 mph
Average Distance from sun: 888 million miles
Rotation period: 11 Earth hours
Revolution Period: 29 Earth years
Mean Temperature: -300 F
Atmospheric components: 97 % Hydrogen, 3 % Helium, 0.2 %Methane
|| Saturn is the sixth planet from
the sun and second largest in the solar system.
While although all four gas giants have rings, none can compare to those of Saturn. Galileo who couldn’t figure out what he was looking at first discovered these rings.
Saturn’s rings make it favorite for observers and holds some of the planet’s biggest mysteries. Its rings are 169, 800 miles in diameter, but only tens of yards thick. It’s rings, made of ice and rock particles- some, as big as automobiles-may have been pieces of comets or asteroids that broke up before they reached the planet.
| Two of the planet’s eighteen moons,
Prometheus and Pandora, have unexplained erratic orbits. They appear to be
getting bumped around yet scientists don’t know what might be the cause of
Cassini, a satellite built by NASA is scheduled to orbit Saturn by 2004. During its several years in orbit it will gather information about the atmosphere, odd storms, its rings and satellites as well as the internal workings and origins of gas giants. Cassini will launch another satellite, Huygens, which has been designed to explore Saturn’s moon Titan. Titan has shown evidence for frozen water in the past.
||Saturn probably has even more than the eighteen moons so far recognized in its orbit. Most of the moons were formed as the planet took shape, but some were probably captured by the planet’s gravity. The planet’s rings are divided into three sections. They are called the A-ring (outer), the B-ring (middle), and the C-ring (inner. The B-ring is separated from the A-ring by a group named the Cassini Division. The C-ring is referred to as the Crepe ring because of its semitransparent appearance. Some pieces of ice in the inner ring race around Saturn at speeds of up to 50,000 miles per hour. Gaps between the rings are a result of tugs-of- war between some of Saturn’s satellites. Between certain moons, the forces act on the rings by clearing ring material out of specific areas at particular distances from Saturn and create the gaps that we see.|
| Saturn like Jupiter is made up mostly of the two lightest
elements found in nature: hydrogen and helium. It’s overall density is actually
less than that of water. This means that if there were a tub filled with
water big enough to hold Saturn the planet would float!
Unlike Jupiter’s atmosphere, Saturn’s is very simple. In the planets upper atmosphere there is a haze layer that makes the planet look like a frosted glass. Also, all of its weather systems are thoroughly mixed with each other.
When NASA’s Voyager orbited near Saturn it found that hurricanes the size of Asia existed on the planet.
As Saturn’s orbit approaches closer toward the
sun, the heat it absorbs drives huge amounts of ammonia vapor into the upper
atmosphere. This vapor than turns into trillions of snow flakes that are
later caught by jet streams that blow at over 1,000 miles per hour. The blizzard
rages for weeks before subsiding.
Like Jupiter’s moon, Saturn’s are mostly made of ice. On Tethys, one of Saturn’s moons, there is a canyon called Ithaca Chasma that stretches two-thirds the circumference of Earth. One possible explanation for this is that the canyon may be a crack that opened up when the moon’s interior cooled, froze, and later expanded.
A spacecraft called Cassini is scheduled to travel
to Saturn. The main craft will orbit the gas giant where a probe called Huygens
will dislodge from the mother ship and slowly descend by parachute into
the atmosphere of Saturn’s moon Titan. The spacecraft is designed to tell
us more about the weather and chemistry of this unusual planet.