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What are Some Prominent Features of Saturn?

Saturn, the jewel of our solar system, is renowned for its stunning rings, composed of countless ice and rock particles. This gas giant boasts over 80 moons, with Titan being larger than the planet Mercury. Its mysterious hexagon-shaped storm at the north pole captivates scientists. What other secrets does Saturn hold? Join us as we unveil the wonders of this celestial giant.
Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov

Saturn is a gas giant in the outer solar system, just beyond the orbit of Jupiter. It is famous for its large, beautiful rings and numerous moons, including one with its own atmosphere, Titan. Saturn orbits about 9 AUs (Sun-Earth distances) from the Sun, making one revolution every 29.5 years. The day in the week Saturday gets its name from Saturn. It is named after the Roman god Saturnus, father of Jupiter. Saturn can be seen as a yellowish star with the naked eye but seeing its rings takes binoculars or a telescope.

Saturn is the most oblate planet in the solar system — that is to say, its diameter is approximately 10% greater than the distance between its poles. This is due to a combination of low density, fast rotation, and its gaseous state. Like all the other gas giants, Saturn is primarily composed of hydrogen. It has a rocky core which includes metallic hydrogen. Trace amounts of ammonia, water, ammonium, and hydrosulfide crystals are suspended in its atmosphere.

Radio telescopes can be used to study the universe and celestial objects.
Radio telescopes can be used to study the universe and celestial objects.

Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens was the first to observe Saturn's rings conclusively, in 1655. Galileo Galilei has observed them earlier but called them "ears" and was perplexed when they would vanish when they became perpendicular from the perspective of the Earth. Saturn has many rings and many gaps between them, the largest named the Cassini Division, after Giovanni Cassini who first discovered the discreteness of the rings.

Saturn's moon Titan has its own atmosphere.
Saturn's moon Titan has its own atmosphere.

In 2004, a spacecraft bearing Cassini's name, the Cassini orbiter, arrived at Saturn, and shortly thereafter dropped a probe, Huygens, into the atmosphere of Titan. This was the first artificial object to land on an outer solar system body and send back observations. It kept transmitting for 45 minutes after a 2 1/2 hour descent through Titan's thick atmosphere to the surface. It sent back images of hydrocarbon seas, which scientists strongly expected would be there. Titan is of great interest to scientists because it is seen both as a potential future target of colonization and a possible bearer of exotic life.

Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov

Michael is a longtime AllTheScience contributor who specializes in topics relating to paleontology, physics, biology, astronomy, chemistry, and futurism. In addition to being an avid blogger, Michael is particularly passionate about stem cell research, regenerative medicine, and life extension therapies. He has also worked for the Methuselah Foundation, the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and the Lifeboat Foundation.

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Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov

Michael is a longtime AllTheScience contributor who specializes in topics relating to paleontology, physics, biology, astronomy, chemistry, and futurism. In addition to being an avid blogger, Michael is particularly passionate about stem cell research, regenerative medicine, and life extension therapies. He has also worked for the Methuselah Foundation, the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and the Lifeboat Foundation.

Learn more...

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    • Radio telescopes can be used to study the universe and celestial objects.
      By: Route16
      Radio telescopes can be used to study the universe and celestial objects.
    • Saturn's moon Titan has its own atmosphere.
      By: Mark Johnson
      Saturn's moon Titan has its own atmosphere.
    • Galileo Galilei observed Saturn's rings after he invented his telescope.
      By: nickolae
      Galileo Galilei observed Saturn's rings after he invented his telescope.
    • Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens was the first to observe Saturn's rings conclusively.
      By: Juulijs
      Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens was the first to observe Saturn's rings conclusively.
    • A view of Saturn's rings, as seen from its massive moon, Titan.
      By: DX
      A view of Saturn's rings, as seen from its massive moon, Titan.