We explain everything about the planet Saturn, its origin and the dimensions it has. Also, its characteristics and exploration.
What is Saturn?
We call the sixth planet in our Solar System Saturn . Among the outer planets or gas giants, it is the second, after Jupiter. It is one of the brightest points on Earth’s night with the naked eye. Although it has been known since ancient times , its presence did not arouse much curiosity before the invention of the telescope.
Saturn was, for ancient astronomers , the most distant planet and the one that moved more slowly around the Earth , the center of the universe . It was observed directly for the first time in 1610 , in the low resolution telescope invented by Galileo Galilei . But it was Christiaan Huygens who, in 1659, first observed their rings clearly.
Saturn is represented in astronomical and astrological language with the symbol ?.
Origin of Saturn
Saturn, like the rest of the planets that make up the Solar System, has an uncertain origin .
Scientists estimate that it is the product of the cooling and condensation of the remaining matter in the gaseous cloud from which the Sun itself formed.
However, unlike the rocky or inner planets, Saturn kept its composition almost entirely gaseous .
Saturn’s orbit is nine times farther from the Sun than Earth’s.
Saturn’s orbit lies behind Jupiter’s , about 1,400 million kilometers from the Sun , beyond the asteroid belt that divides the Solar System. This orbit is nine times farther from the Sun than Earth’s, and a complete return to the orbit takes 29 Earth years.
Saturn is 120,536 km in size in equatorial diameter , and is notoriously flattened at the poles. This is observed by the difference with its polar diameter, of 108,728 km. On its surface there are 5,688 x 10 26 kg of mass, that is, almost 95 times the earth’s mass and almost 755 times its volume.
Despite its enormous size, its density is lower than that of water : 690 kg / m 3 , making it the least dense planet known. That is, if there were an ocean big enough to submerge, Saturn would float easily.
Moons of saturn
Titan is the largest natural satellite of Saturn and the second largest in the Solar System.
Saturn has an indeterminate number of moons, ranging from 53 observed satellites to 9 to be confirmed . The largest of these is Titan, the second largest moon in the Solar System. Others known are Janus, Api, Epimetheus, Prometheus, Pandora, Calypso, Dione, Helena and Phoebe.
The particles in Saturn’s rings can be several meters in diameter.
Perhaps the most distinctive feature of Saturn is its rings, which extend from 6,630 km to 120,700 km above its equator . They are composed of various particles provided with abundant ice water.
The size of the particles that compose them can vary enormously . Some are microscopic while the largest can be several meters in diameter. They are organized in different regions of greater or lesser density, interacting with the gravity of the planet and its many moons.
Atmosphere of Saturn
The Saturnian atmosphere is mostly hydrogen (96%) and just 3% helium and other elements. It is estimated that inside, hydrogen is compressed until it becomes liquid .
In contrast, clouds of ammonia crystals or ammonia hydrosulfate can be found on the planet’s surface . This composition gives it its yellowish to orange color, organized in various stripes similar to those of Jupiter.
It takes Saturn 29 Earth years to complete its translation.
Saturn has, like the other planets, presents two movements:
- Translation. It is its movement around its solar orbit, which takes 29 Earth years to complete.
- Rotation. It is the movement by which it turns on itself. Its speed is uncertain, since Saturn does not have a defined surface and the atmospheric constitution changes according to latitude, rotating in different periods. Their turnover can only be calculated roughly.
The average temperature on Saturn is around 143 K, that is, -130.15 ° C and reaching -180.15 ° C in the region of its clouds . Although the interior of the planet is difficult to know, it is estimated that it has a rocky core, like Jupiter, surrounded by a layer of liquid hydrogen and then a gigantic gaseous atmosphere.
However, Saturn is in the midst of very slow compression processes , which make it radiate more heat into space than it receives from the Sun. Inside, like Jupiter, it is possible to witness the formation of large storms, which they form observable white spots on their surface.
How has Saturn been explored?
In 2004 the Cassini probe orbited Saturn and approached its rings.
This distant planet has been explored by humanity on several occasions:
- 1979. The US probe Pioneer 11 flew by Saturn at a distance of 20,000 km from its upper clouds.
- 1980. The US probe Voyager 1 approached 124,200 km from Saturn and passed within 6500 km of Titan.
- 1982. The American Voyager 2 probe approached Saturn.
- 2004. The Cassini / Huygens probe orbited Saturn and approached its rings. His mission ended in 2017.
Saturn’s presence in culture
Saturn is represented with the Hindu god Shani, judge between the planets.
The name of Saturn comes from the homonymous Roman god , a version of the Greek god Cronos , who devoured his own children so as not to be dethroned, according to the mythological story. He is attributed melancholy (hence the term “saturnine”), depression and social skills, as well as perseverance, maturation and self-criticism .
In other cultures , such as the Hindu or the Chinese-Japanese, Saturn is designated respectively as Sani or Shani , judge between the planets. In other cases it is the representative of the earth element, within the traditional scheme of the five natural elements.
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