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Saturn – the greatest planet (except for Uranus which is easier to work into jokes)

Saturn during Equinox

Saturn is our favorite planet (although Uranus, which makes great joke material, comes in a close 2nd).  Like Jupiter, Saturn is a large, gaseous planet composed mostly of the gases hydrogen and helium. Saturn has a magnetic field 1,000 times stronger than Earth’s but not as strong as Jupiter’s. Due to its gaseous nature, Saturn’s density is so low that it could float in an ocean of water. It probably has a core similar to that of Jupiter. It is covered with cloud bands, some forming cyclonic patterns like Jupiter’s, but the colors appear more subdued than Jupiter’s because of an atmospheric haze that covers the clouds.

Saturn components diagram

Saturn is surrounded by a spectacular ring system (see the picture above). Galileo observed these rings in 1610, but he did not identify them as rings.  Instead, he believed Saturn was 3 separate planets. In 1655, using a more powerful telescope, the Dutch astronomer Christian Huygens was able to see a flat, apparently solid ring around Saturn. Later, with even more powerful telescopes, astronomers were able to identify separate rings.

The cameras of Voyagers 1 and 2 (spaceships sent by NASA) revealed that there are really tens of thousands of rings extending from about 4,300 miles (7,000 kilometers) to 46,000 miles (74,000 kilometers) beyond Saturn’s atmosphere. They are made of ice and ice-covered particles that range from the size of a speck of dust to the size of a house.

Saturn takes about 29 1/2 Earth years to finish one revolution around the Sun.

Image Credits

In-Article Image Credits

Saturn components diagram via Wikimedia Commons with usage type - Creative Commons License. April 16, 2014
Saturn during Equinox via Wikimedia Commons by NASA with usage type - Public Domain. July 23, 2008

Featured Image Credit

Saturn during Equinox via Wikimedia Commons by NASA with usage type - Public Domain. July 23, 2008