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Saturn Planet


Solar System Explanation ::-- Sun|| Solar Planet || Mercury Planet || Jupitor Planet || Venus Planet || Earth Planet || Uranus Planet || Saturn Planet || Mars Planet || Neptune Planet || Dwarf Planet || Astroids || Comet ||


In Roman mythology, Saturn is the god of agriculture. The associated Greek god, Cronus, was the son of Uranus and Gaia and the father of Zeus (Jupiter). Saturn is the root of the English word "Saturday".

Saturn has been known since prehistoric times. Galileo was the first to observe it with a telescope in 1610; he noted its odd appearance but was confused by it. Early observations of Saturn were complicated by the fact that the Earth passes through the plane of Saturn's rings every few years as Saturn moves in its orbit. A low resolution image of Saturn therefore changes drastically. It was not until 1659 that Christiaan Huygens correctly inferred the geometry of the rings. Saturn's rings remained unique in the known solar system until 1977 when very faint rings were discovered around Uranus (and shortly thereafter around Jupiter and Neptune).

Facts about Planet Saturn

* Diameter: 120,660 km. It is about 10 times larger than our Earth

* Temperature: –178°C

* Distance from Earth: At its closest, Saturn is 1190.4 million km

* Atmosphere: Hydrogen and helium

* Surface: consists of liquid and gas.

* Rotation of its axis: 10 hours, 40 min, 24 sec

* Rotation around the Sun: 29.5 Earth years



Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun and the second largest planet in the Solar System, after Jupiter. Named after the Roman god Saturn, its astronomical symbol (♄) represents the god's sickle. Saturn is a gas giant with an average radius about nine times that of Earth. While only 1/8 the average density of Earth, with its larger volume Saturn is just over 95 times more massive than Earth.
Saturn's interior is probably composed of a core of iron, nickel and rock (silicon and oxygen compounds), surrounded by a deep layer of metallic hydrogen, an intermediate layer of liquid hydrogen and liquid helium and an outer gaseous layer. Electrical current within the metallic hydrogen layer is thought to give rise to Saturn's planetary magnetic field, which is slightly weaker than Earth's and around one-twentieth the strength of Jupiter's. The outer atmosphere is generally bland and lacking in contrast, although long-lived features can appear. Wind speeds on Saturn can reach 1,800 km/h.
Saturn has a ring system that consists of nine continuous main rings and three discontinuous arcs, composed mostly of ice particles with a smaller amount of rocky debris and dust. Sixty-two known moons orbit the planet; fifty-three are officially named. This does not include the hundreds of "moonlets" within the rings. Titan, Saturn's largest and the Solar System's second largest moon, is larger than the planet Mercury and is the only moon in the Solar System to retain a substantial atmosphere.



Saturn Physical characteristics

Because of its low density, rapid rotation and fluid state, Saturn is an oblate spheroid; that is, it is flattened at the poles and bulges at the equator. Its equatorial and polar radii differ by almost 10%—60,268 km versus 54,364 km. The other gas planets are also oblate, but to a lesser extent. Saturn is the only planet of the Solar System that is less dense than water (about 30% less). Although Saturn's core is considerably denser than water, the average specific density of the planet is 0.69 g/cm3 due to the gaseous atmosphere. Saturn is only 95 Earth masses, compared to Jupiter, which is 318 times the mass of the Earth but only about 20% larger than Saturn.


saturn planet

Saturn Internal structure

Though there is no direct information about Saturn's internal structure, physical models suggest that its interior is similar to that of Jupiter, having a small rocky core surrounded mostly by hydrogen and helium with trace amounts of various volatiles. The rocky core is similar in composition to the Earth, but more dense. It is estimated to be about 9–22 times the mass of the Earth and about 25,000 km across. This is surrounded by a thicker liquid metallic hydrogen layer, followed by a liquid layer of helium-saturated molecular hydrogen that gradually transitions into gas with increasing altitude. The outermost layer spans 1000 km and consists of an entirely gaseous atmosphere.
Saturn has a very hot interior, reaching 11,700 °C at the core, and it radiates 2.5 times more energy into space than it receives from the Sun. Most of this extra energy is generated by the Kelvin–Helmholtz mechanism (slow gravitational compression), but this alone may not be sufficient to explain Saturn's heat production. It is proposed that an additional mechanism might be at play whereby Saturn generates some of its heat through the "raining out" of droplets of helium deep in its interior. This releases heat by friction as the droplets fall down through the lighter hydrogen and leaves the outer layers depleted of helium. This process may have created a helium shell surrounding the core.

 

Saturn was first visited by NASA's Pioneer 11 in 1979 and later by Voyager 1 and Voyager 2. Cassini (a joint NASA / ESA project) arrived on July 1, 2004 and will orbit Saturn for at least four years.

Saturn is visibly flattened (oblate) when viewed through a small telescope; its equatorial and polar diameters vary by almost 10% (120,536 km vs. 108,728 km). This is the result of its rapid rotation and fluid state. The other gas planets are also oblate, but not so much so.

Saturn is the least dense of the planets; its specific gravity (0.7) is less than that of water.

Like Jupiter, Saturn is about 75% hydrogen and 25% helium with traces of water, methane, ammonia and "rock", similar to the composition of the primordial Solar Nebula from which the solar system was formed.

Saturn's interior is similar to Jupiter's consisting of a rocky core, a liquid metallic hydrogen layer and a molecular hydrogen layer. Traces of various ices are also present.

Saturn's interior is hot (12000 K at the core) and Saturn radiates more energy into space than it receives from the Sun. Most of the extra energy is generated by the Kelvin-Helmholtz mechanism as in Jupiter. But this may not be sufficient to explain Saturn's luminosity; some additional mechanism may be at work, perhaps the "raining out" of helium deep in Saturn's interior.

The Rings

Saturn is most well-known for its rings. However, it is not the only planet with rings. Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune also have rings. Saturn is a favorite object for many observers. Its beautiful rings are 169,800 miles wide (approx 273,266 km). But the rings are amazingly thin. If you turned the rings on their side, they would be able to fit between the goal posts on a football field. The rings are split into categories, Ring A, Ring B, Ring C, Ring D, Ring E, Ring F and Ring G, totaling 7 in all. The rings are not solid but rather are made up of particles of ice, dust and rocks. The rings are held in place around Saturn by the moons that also orbit this large planet. The gravity of these moons also cause the gaps that are seen in between the rings.

Saturn Moons: 

Saturn has 53 official moons and 9 provisional (unofficial) moons. The most well-known of Saturn's moons is probably Titan. It is the second largest moon in the Solar System next to Jupiter's Ganymede. Titan is larger than the planet Mercury. Some of the other moons are Atlas, Calypso, Dione, Enceladus, Hyperion, Iapetus, Janus, Mimas, Phoebe, and Tethys.

Saturn Orbit and rotation

The average distance between Saturn and the Sun is over 1,400,000,000 km (9 AU). With an average orbital speed of 9.69 km/s, it takes Saturn 10,759 Earth days (or about 29½ years), to finish one revolution around the Sun. The elliptical orbit of Saturn is inclined 2.48° relative to the orbital plane of the Earth. Because of an eccentricity of 0.056, the distance between Saturn and the Sun varies by approximately 155,000,000 km between perihelion and aphelion, which are the nearest and most distant points of the planet along its orbital path, respectively.
The visible features on Saturn rotate at different rates depending on latitude and multiple rotation periods have been assigned to various regions (as in Jupiter's case): System I has a period of 10 h 14 min 00 s (844.3°/d) and encompasses the Equatorial Zone, which extends from the northern edge of the South Equatorial Belt to the southern edge of the North Equatorial Belt. All other Saturnian latitudes have been assigned a rotation period of 10 h 38 min 25.4 s (810.76°/d), which is System II. System III, based on radio emissions from the planet in the period of the Voyager flybys, has a period of 10 h 39 min 22.4 s (810.8°/d); because it is very close to System II, it has largely superseded it.
A precise value for the rotation period of the interior remains elusive. While approaching Saturn in 2004, Cassini found that the radio rotation period of Saturn had increased appreciably, to approximately 10 h 45 m 45 s (± 36 s). In March 2007, it was found that the variation of radio emissions from the planet did not match Saturn's rotation rate. This variance may be caused by geyser activity on Saturn's moon Enceladus. The water vapor emitted into Saturn's orbit by this activity becomes charged and creates a drag upon Saturn's magnetic field, slowing its rotation slightly relative to the rotation of the planet. The latest estimate of Saturn's rotation based on a compilation of various measurements from the Cassini, Voyager and Pioneer probes was reported in September 2007 is 10 hours, 32 minutes, 35 seconds.

Saturn Observation

Saturn is the most distant of the five planets easily visible to the naked eye, the other four being Mercury, Venus, Mars and Jupiter (Uranus and occasionally 4 Vesta are visible to the naked eye in very dark skies). It was the last planet known to early astronomers until Uranus was discovered in 1781. Saturn appears to the naked eye in the night sky as a bright, yellowish point of light whose apparent magnitude is usually between +1 and 0. It takes approximately 29½ years to make a complete circuit of the ecliptic against the background constellations of the zodiac. Most people will require optical aid (large binoculars or a telescope) magnifying at least 20× to clearly resolve Saturn's rings.
While it is a rewarding target for observation for most of the time it is visible in the sky, Saturn and its rings are best seen when the planet is at or near opposition (the configuration of a planet when it is at an elongation of 180° and thus appears opposite the Sun in the sky). During the opposition of December 17, 2002, Saturn appeared at its brightest due to a favorable orientation of its rings relative to the Earth, even though Saturn was closer to the Earth and Sun in late 2003.

 

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