In our Solar system, Saturn is the sixth planet when we count from the Sun. It is different from the other planets due to the fact that it has planetary rings around it. After Jupiter, it is the second-largest planet in our solar system. After recent researches, scientists have found many moons around it.
Saturn has exceeded the total number of moons present around Jupiter. Hence, it is now considered as the planet with the maximum number of satellites around it.
Saturn – or how we call it the “Ringed Planet” is quite significant in the sky because of the rings around it. As a child, whenever we saw the solar system, this planet definitely caught our attention because of the rings around it.
Seeing it with a Telescope is an entirely different experience than watching it in your books. Sky gazing is very mesmerizing on the whole, but some things just excite it to a different level.
Discovery of Saturn
Saturn was studied for the first time by a scientist Galileo Galilei in 1610 with a telescope’s help. However, because of the crude nature of the telescopes of those times, he could not study or observe the rings. Nonetheless, he considered the rings only as two moons surrounding the planet.
Another scientist elucidated the mystery – who claimed that the surrounding Saturn is actually a system of spectacular rings.
Formation of the Planet Saturn
Saturn also came into existence with the rest of the solar system, some around 4.5 billion years ago, when the gas and dust together created it. Like Jupiter, it is also majorly composed of hydrogen and helium – the main components of the Sun itself.
The distance of planet from Sun
If we compare it with the Earth, Saturn is 9.5 times more away from the Sun than is the Earth. It is approximately 9.6 AU away from the Sun – becoming the sixth most distant planet. The light on average takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes to travel from Sun to Saturn.
Size of the Planet
The planet has a radius of 36 miles, and it is 9.5 times bigger than the Earth. It has a diameter of about 74.8 miles. The surface area is 83 times larger than the Earth. However, the volume is 764 times greater than the volume of Earth.
Saturn Rotates quickly around the Sun. Hence, it has the second shortest day in the solar system. Saturn completes one rotation in 10.6 hours. Its speed is 9.68 Kilometers per second or 6.01 miles per second. Pretty quick, right?
Structure of Saturn
Majorly, Saturn is composed of gases such as Hydrogen and Helium. It has the lowest density as compared to the rest of the planets. Just like other plants such as Jupiter, Uranus, and Neptune, Saturn also lacks a true surface.
Saturn’s core is formed of ice and water, in addition to rocky mountains and tacks a dense core made of the actual landmass. The liquid metallic layer envelops the central core composed of molecular hydrogen with traces of some ice.
The inside is rather hot ( 11,700 degrees Celsius on average). It radiates 2.5 times the amount of energy that it produces into space. According to an estimation, Saturn’s mass is 9-22 times greater than that of the Earth.
The atmosphere of the planet
The planet is covered with clouds in the form of stripes or storms. Strong winds that reach up to 500 meters per second usually characterize the planet. The atmospheric pressure on Saturn can turn a gas into a liquid. Hence, it is super high, surprisingly.
Different gases such as Ammonia, Ammonium hydrosulfide, and water are included in the formation of Saturn’s atmosphere. Moreover, these gases influence the colors of Saturn, which appear as different hues of brownish-yellow.
Many periodic storms are visible from a reflective telescope when seen from the Earth. These represent the Great White Spot of Planet Saturn.
Temperature fluctuations and Changes on Saturn
The temperature on Saturn typically ranges from -185 degrees celsius to -122 degrees celsius. However, an unprecedented phenomenon is that the south pole of Saturn has a hotter vortex. This is not present on any other planet of our solar system.
Vortex in Saturn
Generally, we divide them into two: North Pole Vortex and South Pole Vortex
North Pole Vortex
It is a continuous wave pattern of 13,000 kilometers. It is longer than the Earth’s diameter! It rotates in a time period of about 10 hours and 39 minutes.
South Pole Vortex
There is no visible wave. However, scientists have been able to image the south Pole vortex with the help of a Hubble space telescope.
Although Saturn’s magnetic field is somehow lesser than the Earth’s magnetic field, it is strong enough to hold its moon -Titan. The magnetosphere of Saturn is also capable of producing aurorae.
The magnetic field is symmetric and has an intrinsic strength of 0.2 gauss. (one-twentieth of the Field of Jupiter).
Moons of Saturn
Having the reputation of being the “King of Moons,” – Saturn is remarkable in having 82 moons. To add to it, the moons of Saturn have not been named yet. However, a few popular ones such as Titan and Rhea have thin names and are widely under observation.
Survivability of Planet Saturn
Being a planet with no actual solid surface, it is not appropriate for life. However, the reason why it is being researched is the fact that some of its moons, such as Titan and Enceladus, could be conducive to life sometime in the future. The main reason is the evidence that the space scientists received about having interned oceans on Saturn’s Moon.
You can definitely see and observe Saturn through one of your reflective telescopes. Try using a filter on the eyepiece so that you do not encounter any haze. The rings around the planet tend to make the planet quite distinctive and different from the rest.