Sunday, April 18, 2010

Facts About Saturn

Saturn is the second largest planet after Jupiter and also orbits a little further out as the sixth planet from the Sun. Saturn was named after the Roman god of the harvest.One Saturn day equals 10 1/2 hours on Earth. This means that Saturn is the second fastest spinning planet in the solar system, again playing second fiddle to Jupiter. One Saturn year equals 29 1/2 Earth years. Saturn orbits 9.5 AU from the Sun. 1 AU equals 93 million miles, or the distance from the Sun to Earth; therefore, Saturn is nine and a half times further from the Sun than Earth is.Saturn has been visited by many spacecraft, including Pioneer 11, Voyagers 1 and 2, Cassini, and"font-weight: bold;">Saturn is categorized as a gas giant planet, with its composition consisting mostly of hydrogen and some helium. Saturn is the least dense of all the planets: If it were placed in a giant ocean, it would float. Its atmosphere gives it an ochre color (yellowish-orange) although cloud mixing through storms may tinge it paler toward white. style="font-weight: bold;">Saturn has 34 named moons and other small moons are being found all the time. The largest moon, Titan, is notable for its thick atmosphere. Titan is the second largest moon in the solar system and a good possibility for a place in which life could have taken hold. An "icy volcano" was recently found on Titan, signifying warm watery conditions, which is considered an excellent medium for life to evolve in.

As the second biggest planet in the solar system, Saturn is a gas giant. This makes it similar to Jupiter in that it has no solid rock surface as found on terrestrial planets such as Earth and Mars. That being said, Saturn is famous for its rings.
  • On average, Saturn is 886 million miles from the Sun.
  • Saturn has a rocky core, but primarily consists of liquid metallic hydrogen.
  • Because Saturn is a gas giant, parts of the planet rotate at different speeds.
  • One rotation at the equator, a “day”, takes 10 hours and 14 minutes. At the poles, it takes 25 minutes longer.
  • Winds on Saturn are often well above 1,100 miles per hour.
  • Because it doesn’t have a rocky surface like Earth, centrifugal forces cause Saturn to bulge in the middle and flatten at the poles.
  • Saturn’s density is less than water on average, although this fact is a bit misleading. As one looks deeper into the planets gas surface, density rises well above water.
  • Saturn is extremely hot and sends off more energy than it receives from the Sun.
  • Saturn has a massive magnetic field.
  • Saturn is visible in the night sky with the naked eye.
  • “Spokes” have been found running perpendicular to some of the rings of Saturn, but scientists have been unable to determine the cause of them.
Despite its size and visibility to the naked eye in the night sky, Saturn is still a mystery to mankind. When discussing Saturn facts, one simply has to realize many of the facts may be different as we continue to visit the planet and improve our technology.

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