Saturn is the second largest planet in our solar system. It is yellowish in color, and is named after Saturnus, a Roman God of harvest and agriculture. With a diameter of around 74,898 miles, more than nine earths when arranged in a straight line, would fit in this planet. In terms of distance, it is placed at the sixth position from the Sun (around 890 million miles). The wind speed on Saturn can reach up to 1800 km/h. It takes 10 hours and 39 minutes to complete a single rotation. Sunlight on this planet is 1% brighter as compared to that on the Earth. The day of the week called Saturday, derives its name after Saturn.
Galileo Galilei, who was an astronomer, discovered this planet in 1610; but didn't understand because of the rings that were around it. He thought that the rings were actually moons on the sides of Saturn. He saw the rings appearing and disappearing intermittently, which confused him. It was due to the tilt and the thinness of the rings that made them nearly invisible. Later in 1655, Christian Huygens, who was a Dutch astronomer, discovered that there were rings around this planet.
This planet has a core that consists of rock and ice, and the outer layers of the core are surrounded by a very thick layer of various gases. Around 97% of Saturn consists of hydrogen, 2.5% helium, and the rest is filled with ammonia, methane, ethane, phosphine, rocks, ice, etc. The temperature on this planet is around -180 degree Celsius.
Rings of Saturn
They are the most beautiful aspect of this planet, and can be seen even with a small telescope. A larger telescope is required to enable us to see all the rings more clearly. The rings of Saturn are around 150,000 miles in diameter, and are made up of small pieces of rock, ice, and dust.
Least Dense Planet
Saturn is the least dense among all known planets; having a weight of 0.687 g/cm, which is in fact even lighter than water. It means that it would float, if placed in a water body of a size bigger than itself.
Moons of Saturn
Saturn has 60 known moons, and there are many more yet to be discovered. Titan is the largest one, and is bigger than even Mercury and Pluto. Titan is also the second largest moon in the solar system.
Visible to the Naked Eye
It's the farthest planet that can be seen without using a telescope. Though, you would not be able to see its rings, but the planet itself can be seen like a bright star in the sky.
Flattened at the Poles
The rotational speed of Saturn is so fast, that it is flattened at the poles. The distance from the center to the poles, is more than that from the center to the equator. This results in the planet being a little oval in shape.
Missions to Saturn
There were four spacecrafts that were sent to Saturn to gather information. First was Pioneer 11 in 1979, which orbited within 20,000 km of this planet. Then came Voyager 1 in 1980 and Voyager 2 in 1981, which sent images of Saturn's system that included those of the rings and moons. Later, in 2004, Cassini entered its orbit, and sent useful information and images of Saturn and Titan.
Many would be eager to know more about this beautiful planet, but we have to wait until space satellites become more advanced, and can send some more interesting information and images back to Earth.