Saturn is often called the most beautiful planet in the solar system, but we understand that it’s a matter of taste. Regardless of one’s preference, we can agree that Saturn stands out from the rest of the planets.
Thanks to its impressive rings and immense size, many consider Saturn one of the most fascinating planets in the solar system. But what makes Saturn such an interesting and outstanding place? It can’t be just its rings, right?
If you want to know more about this amazing planet, read these 25 Dizzying Facts About Planet Saturn. You will find yourself at least 100% wiser by the time you reach the end of the article.
Named after Kronos
Like all of the planets, Saturn is named after a Greek deity. Saturn is named after Saturnus, the god of agriculture and harvest.
Saturn, in the Roman religion, is equivalent to the ancient Greek titan Kronos, who is famous for eating his own children and for being the father of the mighty Zeus.
Second Largest Planet
Saturn is the second-largest in the solar system, after Jupiter. To get an idea of how big Saturn is, scientists estimate that about 764 planets the size of Earth could fit into Saturn!
For the fans of numbers: the equatorial diameter of Saturn is 120,536 km; that’s about 9.5 times bigger than the diameter of the Earth. The surface area of Saturn is 83 times the area of Earth, and the volume is 764 times the volume of Earth.
It's a "Naked Eye" Planet
Saturn is among the so-called team of the “naked eye” planets, along with Mercury, Venus, Mars, and Jupiter.
Why are they called this? Because they are visible from earth with a naked eye, without the need for a telescope.
Far from the Sun
Galileo Thought Saturn's Rings Were Moons
Galileo Galilei was the first man to observe Saturn with a telescope in 1610. Because of the primitive technology and design of telescopes back then, the famous scientist couldn’t really understand what the famous rings of the planet were.
He first thought that Saturn had two gigantic moons around it. After observing it again with a newer telescope in 1616, he concluded that Saturn was a really “weird” planet with arms or handles.
It's a "Failed" Star
You’ve probably heard before that Saturn is a “gas giant,” right? Astronomers use the name “gas giant” for any gigantic planet composed mainly of hydrogen and helium. Jupiter and Saturn are the only gas giants in our solar system.
Saturn is also sometimes called a ”failed” star. Gas giants also go by this lesser-known name because they contain the same basic elements as a star.
You Could Not Stand on Saturn
Saturn’s surface is nothing like this of Earth. This planet is made mostly of gases.
For this reason, it doesn’t have a solid surface on which you could hypothetically walk or stand.
Least Dense Planet
Earth is known for being the densest planet in the solar system, while Saturn is the opposite.
The density of the planet is estimated to be 0.687 grams per cubic centimeter, which is less dense than water. In other words, Saturn could float in water.
"Monstrous" Atmospheric Pressure
The atmosphere of Saturn is composed primarily of hydrogen, which was captured in the early stages of its formation. Most of the remaining composition is helium. There are also traces of other substances like methane, ammonia, and propane.
All that gas produces high pressure as you descend into the atmosphere. NASA’s scientists suggest that the pressure of Saturn’s core is 1,000 times stronger than that of Earth’s core. This is enough pressure to force hydrogen into its liquid state, and finally into a solid metal at the planet’s core.
Needless to say, this kind of pressure wouldn’t only crush the human body but even man-made spaceships that might attempt to “land” on this planet.
Exploration of Saturn
Only four spacecraft have visited Saturn so far. The first was Pioneer 11 in 1973; Voyager 1 and 2 followed in 1977.
It was the Cassini-Huygens mission that sent back an immense wealth of data about the planet, its moons, and rings. The Cassini spacecraft orbited Saturn from June 30, 2004, until September 15, 2017, a total of 13 years and three months.
Most Mooned Planet
Saturn used to have the second most moons in the solar system, behind Jupiter, but not anymore.
Thanks to images taken by Cassini, astronomers discovered 20 new moons orbiting the planet recently, bringing its total number to 82 (three more than Jupiter).
Titan and Rhea
Saturn’s largest moon, named Titan, is the second-largest natural satellite in the solar system. It’s the only moon known to have a dense atmosphere and the only known body in space (other than Earth) where scientists have found evidence of surface liquid.
Even more impressive is Saturn’s second-largest moon, Rhea. This moon has a sparse atmosphere with lots of oxygen. In fact, oxygen makes up about 70 percent of Rhea’s atmosphere while carbon dioxide takes up the remaining 30 percent.
A Life-Friendly Moon
Discovered in 1789 by William Herschel, Saturn’s moon, Enceladus, is important for us, the people of Earth. Enceladus has geysers that erupt icy particles, water vapor, and organic compounds.
According to many scientists, these geysers may very well contain “ingredients for life.”
It's Very Windy There
Can you think of the wildest and fastest winds on Earth? Sorry to disappoint you, but no matter how fast they may be, they’re still slow compared to Saturn’s winds, which can “run” as fast as 1,118 miles per hour!
On Earth, the fastest winds only get to about 400 kilometers per hour (250 miles per hour), which is amateur compared to the winds of Saturn.
Saturn Has the Most Famous "Rings"
Alright, let’s set things straight. Saturn is not the only planet with rings. It only happens to have the largest and most impressive rings; that’s all.
There are four planets in the solar system with rings, including Saturn. The other three are Jupiter, Uranus, and Neptune. It was not until the 1970s that astronomers discovered rings around the other three gas planets.
Still, Tom Brady has more Super Bowl rings (six) than our solar system.
The Rings Are Not Made of Gold
Unlike Brady’s rings, Saturn’s are definitely not made of gold. Actually, they are not even solid; they are comprised of bits of ice, dust, and rock. Some of these chunks are very small and tiny (like a grain of sand), while some of them are larger than tall buildings here on Earth.
It has been suggested by astronomers that the material of the rings was created from asteroids, comets, or even moons that at some point broke apart before they reached the planet.
The Rings Are Young
Images taken by the Cassini spacecraft revealed the surprising age of Saturn’s impressive rings. According to a new study, scientists concluded that the planet’s rings are much younger than they once believed.
It’s now estimated that the rings were probably formed in the last 100 million years. This might sound ancient, but not too long ago, some astronomers suggested that they were around four billion years old.
The "Magnificent" Seven
Saturn has seven main rings that consist of thousands of smaller rings. The rings are huge but thin. The thinness of the planetary rings is caused by their ever-changing nature.
Just for the record, the ring farthest from the planet, known as the E ring, is about 180,000 miles across.
The Rings Disappear Sometimes
Saturn’s rings seem to disappear every 14 years. Astronomers suggest that the rings usually disappear when Saturn is tilted directly in line with Earth.
The worrying part, however, is that Saturn’s rings may disappear permanently – according to scientific speculation – roughly 100 million years from now. Saturn’s gravitational pull could eventually suck the rings into the planet, or the rings might just dissolve into space.
A Day on Saturn
Saturn rotates much faster than Earth, so a day there is shorter than a day on Earth.
A day on Saturn is about 10.6 hours long, which is the second-shortest day of any of our solar system’s planets.
A Year on Saturn
As we already mentioned before, Saturn’s distance from the sun is about a billion miles (give or take). That’s a really LONG distance the planet needs to cover in order to complete a full orbit around the sun.
As a result of this enormous distance, a year on Saturn lasts about as long as 29.5 years here on Earth.
It's Really Cold on Saturn
With an average temperature of -288 degrees Fahrenheit (-178 degrees Celsius), you wouldn’t describe Saturn as a “warm” planet.
Not the place you would visit for a summer vacation.
Flattest Planet in the Solar System
Saturn is the flattest planet in the solar system by far.
Its polar diameter is 90% of its equatorial diameter. This is due to the planet’s low density and fast rotation.
Raging Storms on Saturn
Astronomers have identified two kinds of storms on Saturn. The planet has relatively small storms that appear as bright clouds and last for a few days. Then there are the so-called “Great White Spots” that are 10 times larger and can last for months.
Interestingly, astronomers have also noticed that most storms on Saturn are oval-shaped. Specifically, the region around its north pole has a hexagonal-shaped pattern of clouds. The planet also has a vortex over its south pole that resembles a hurricane-like storm.
The Jewel of the Solar System
Saturn is sometimes called the ”Jewel of the Solar System” because its ring system looks like a crown. Some have suggested that Saturn got this nickname because it’s the most beautiful planet to look at.
However, we hope you will allow us to kindly disagree. We insist that our blue planet is the queen of beauty in our solar system. (Saturn can be a close second.)