Space Facts

Saturn Facts

Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun and the most distant that can be seen with the naked eye. Saturn is the second largest planet and is best known for its fabulous ring system that was first observed in 1610 by the astronomer Galileo Galilei. Like Jupiter, Saturn is a gas giant and is composed of similar gasses including hydrogen, helium and methane.

Saturn Planet Profile

Equatorial Diameter:120,536 km
Polar Diameter:108,728 km
Mass:5.68 × 10^26 kg (95 Earths)
Moons:62 (Titan, Enceladus, Iapetus & Rhea)
Rings: 30+ (7 Groups)
Orbit Distance:1,426,666,422 km (9.54 AU)
Orbit Period:10,756 days (29.5 years)
Effective Temperature: -178 °C
First Record: 8th century BC
Recorded By:Assyrians

Saturn Diagrams

Saturn size compared to Earth

Saturn distance from the Sun and orbital eccentricity

Facts about Saturn

Saturn’s Rings

While all the gas giants in our solar system have rings none of them are as extensive or distinctive as Saturn’s. The rings were discovered by Galileo Galilei 1610 who observed them with a telescope. The first ‘up close’ view of the rings were by Pioneer 11 spacecraft which flew by Saturn on September 1, 1971.

Saturn’s rings are made up of are billions of particles that range in size from tiny dust grains to to objects as large as mountains. These are made up of chunks of ice and rock, believed to have come from asteroids comets or even moons, that broke apart before they reached the planet.

Saturn’s rings are divided into 7 groups, named alphabetically in the order of their discovery (Outwards from Saturn; D, C, B, A, F, G and E). The F ring is kept in place by two of Saturn’s moons, Prometheus and Pandora, these are referred to as ‘shepherd moons’. Other satellites are responsible for creating divisions in the rings as well as shepherding them.

Saturn’s Atmosphere

Saturn’s atmosphere is composed primarily of hydrogen (96%) and helium (3%) with traces of other substances like methane, ammonia, acetylene, ethane, propane and phosphine. Winds in the upper atmosphere can reach speeds of 500 metres a second, these combined with heat rising from within the planet’s interior cause yellow and gold bands.