- Other bodies
- Basic Definitions
Saturn Cassini March SaturnPolar Vortex
The Beautiful Saturn Ring System
In 1610, Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei was the first to gawk at Saturn through his home-made telescope. He observed a pair of objects on either side of the planet and thought that Saturn was triple bodied.
However, in 1659, Dutch astronomer C Huygens, using a more powerful telescope than that of Galilei proposed that Saturn was surrounded by a thin, flat ring.
It was in 1675 that Italian-born astronomer Jean-Dominique Cassini discovered a stretch of 4800 km between the rings. This stretch is now known as the Cassini Division.
Ring Name: D
Distance*: 68,000 km
Width: 8,500 km
Ring Name: C
Distance*: 74,500 km
Width: 17,500 km
Ring Name: B
Distance*: 92,000 km
Width: 25,500 km
Thickness: 0.1 km - 1 km
Ring Name: Cassini Division
Distance*: 117,500 km
Width: 4,700 km
Ring Name: A
Distance*: 122,200 km
Width: 14,600 km
Thickness: 0.1 km - 1 km
Ring Name: F
Distance*: 140,210 km
Width: 30 km - 500 km
Ring Name: G
Distance*: 165,800 km
Width: 8,000 km
Thickness: 100 km - 1,000 km
Ring Name: E
Distance*: 180,000 km
Width: 300,000 km
Thickness: 1,000 km - 30,000 km
* The distance is measured from the center of the planet to the start of the ring.
Physical characteristics of Rings
Saturn’s rings are composed of silica rock, iron oxide, and ice particles. The ring system of Saturn comprises of thousands of thin gaps along with the larger ones.
It is also not known clearly if the rings of Saturn have their own atmosphere.
The rings are made up of billions of chunks of rock and ice varying in size from a sugar grain to a house.
Missions to Saturn
Successful missions to Saturn include NASA’s Pioneer 11, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2. Another mission named Cassini was launched jointly by NASA and ESA on July 1, 2004. Cassini will be in orbit around Saturn for nearly 4 years.
Saturn is the least dense of all planets in the Solar System. It is visibly flattened towards its poles due to very high rotation speed of the planet about its axis. Its mass is equal to the combined mass of about 96 Earths.
Saturn is made mostly of Hydrogen & Helium with traces of water, methane, ammonia and rock, similar to the composition of the early Solar Nebula from which the solar system was formed. It doesn’t have a solid surface to stand on.
Saturn has a core made up of rocks at the center, a layer of metallic hydrogen covering the rocky layer and another layer of molecular hydrogen above the metallic hydrogen layer.
Saturn has a very hot interior, reaching 12000 K at the core, and it radiates more energy into space than it receives from the Sun.
Saturn is currently known to have 56 moons many of which were discovered very recently by the Cassini spacecraft. A precise count of the number of moons cannot be certain as some of the orbiting chunks of ice in Saturn's rings can be technically called moons due to their large size and their count cannot be estimated.
A complete list of Saturn’s recognized moons is as follows: