Saturn

Jewel of the Solar System

Quick Facts

  • Age:
  • Diameter: ~ 116,400 KM
  • Adjective used: Saturnian
  • Pronunciation: SAT - Urn
  • Alternate names: Cronus / Kronus / Ringed Planet
  • Saturnian Day: ~ 10 Hours 40 Min
  • Saturnian Year: ~ 29 Earth Years
  • Type of planet: Gas Giant
  • Distance from Sun: ~ 1.4 billion KM
  • Number of natural satellite: 82 and several moonlets

Saturn, the second largest planet in the solar system and the sixth in line from our host star, is a gas giant planet which is famously known for its stunning bright rings around it. Saturn is most flattened planet in the solar system. Also, Saturn is only planet in the solar system that is less dense than water. Saturn is also the second fastest spinning planet in the solar system.

Saturn is little bit oblate spheroid or ellipsoid in shape. Spheroid shape means that Saturn is somewhat flat on poles and bulges at equator.

Named after

Planet Saturn is named after Roman mythological god of wealth, agriculture, liberation and even god of generation - Saturnus. Saturn consort was his own sister Ops or Opis (God of Earth and God of fertility). Saturn was father to Jupiter, Juno, Pluto, Neptune, Ceres and Vesta.

Composition

Saturn is predominantly composed of Hydrogen and Helium, just like Jupiter. Alike gas giants, It lacks definite terrestrial surface but might possesses a solid core.

Physical Characteristics

Saturn is little bit oblate spheroid or ellipsoid in shape. Spheroid shape means that Saturn is somewhat flat on poles and bulges at equator.

Equatorial Radius: 60,260 KM

Polar Radius: 54,360 KM

Bizarre Rotation!

Basically, Different parts of Saturn rotate at different apparent speeds depending on their latitude. Scientists use three different system to define rotation rate of Saturn, labelled as Saturn I, Saturn II, Saturn III.

Saturn I: Saturn I that encompasses Equatorial zone (South Equatorial Zone and North Equatorial Zone) has a rotation period of ~ 10 Hours 14 Min. Polar Regions of Saturn are believed to have same rotation speeds as Saturn I.

Saturn II: All other regions of the Saturn, excluding polar regions, are considered as Saturn II. Saturn II as rotation period of ~ 10 Hours 38 Min.

Saturn III: Saturn III is considered Saturn’s non-apparent internal region. Saturn III has a rotation period of ~ 10 Hours 39 Min. The accurate value of the rotation period of Saturn III is difficult to find.

The latest estimate of Saturn’s rotation period as a whole is 10 Hours 32 Min, compiled from the data collected from Cassini, Voyagers, and Pioneer 11 probe.

Ancient Observations

Saturn was known to ancient societies as well. Babylonian astronomers formally recorded and observed Saturn. In ancient Greek, Saturn was called Phainon, and by Romans it was called Saturn’s Star. Roman god Saturnus is equivalent to Greek god Cronus. Hence, the planet Saturn is also sometimes unofficially called Cronus or Kronus.

In Hebrew astronomy, Saturn is called Shabbathai.

In Hindu astronomy, Saturn is called Shani or Shanichara / Sanischara.

According to Hindu astrology, Saturn is one of nine heavenly objects known as Navagraha. In Hindu mythology and religion, Shani is considered God of Justice who punishment / depending upon their work and deeds.

Facts about Saturn

  • Saturn is the flattest planet in the solar system. It is because of its fast rotation speed and less density.
  • Saturn is the fluffiest planet in the solar system that is Saturn’s density is so low that it would float on water, if placed in gigantic planet-sized water tub.
  • In North Pole, Saturn has a hexagon shaped vortex system or pattern of clouds.
  • In South Pole, Saturn also has a vortex that resembles a tropical hurricane storm.
  • Saturnian ring system very thin relative to its extent. It extends more than 120,500 KM from the planet but on average is about only 20 meters thick.
  • Saturn could have hundreds of natural satellite as many small and micro moons disguise themselves in the beautiful ring system.
  • Saturn’s largest moon and Solar System’s second largest moon – Titan enjoys a nitrogen-rich atmosphere, lakes full of liquid methane, landscapes composed of water ice and frozen nitrogen. Studying and analyzing data from the space missions, Titan is believed to support and harbour life – either as we know it or as we don’t know it.

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Curated by: Aakash Gautam