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Saturn

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Saturn

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Saturn is known for the beautiful rings that form a giant hula hoop around it. The rings are made of chunks of ice and rock. There are seven main rings made up of closely-packed thinner rings. Saturn's Great White Spot, actually a big storm, can be seen every 30 years or so through Saturn's thick cloud layer. Look for the next storm around the year 2020.

Ring around the Planet
Galileo first discovered the rings that circle the butterscotch-colored planet known as Saturn in 1610. Using one the first telescopes ever made, Galileo assumed that Saturn's rings were attached to the planet and described them as handles. Forty-five years later, Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens correctly noticed that Saturn's rings surround the planet, but are not attached to it. The rings were named as they were discovered and were named after letters of the alphabet.

It takes Saturn almost 30 years to travel around the Sun, but its days last:

just 10 minutes

only 10 hours

over 10 months

Are you right?

Correct!

On Saturn, the Sun rises every 10 hours. In a year on Saturn there are 23,000 days!

Even though Saturn is known as the ringed planet, the other three "gas giants" -- Jupiter, Uranus, and Neptune -- also have ring systems.

Fact
or
Fiction
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Fact

Saturn's rings are the brightest and stretch the farthest: from the surface -- about 75,000 miles out.

NASA has never been able to send a satellite or probe to observe Saturn.

Fact
or
Fiction
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Fiction

Three probes have passed Saturn: Pioneer 11 in September of 1979 followed by Voyager 1 and 2. The Cassini probe is due to pass by Saturn in 2004. Stay tuned...

Diameter: 75,000 miles
Location: 6th planet from Sun
Average Distance from Sun: 890 million miles
Cloud Top Temperature: -220 degrees F
Number of Moons: at least 18
Orbital Period: 29 Earth years
Characteristics: atmosphere is composed mostly of helium, core consists of rock and ice
Significance: Saturn is the second largest planet in our solar system

Image credits: courtesy of JPL, California Institute of Technology and NASA.