Saturn

Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun and is twice as far from Earth as Jupiter. Its most distinctive feature is the complex system of rings that surrounds it. The planet, which has a muted, banded surface, has a large family of moons.

THE STRucTuRE oF THE pLANET

Saturn is the second-largest and least dense of all the planets. It is made of 95 times the amount of material in Earth, but it occupies a much greater volume. About 764 planets the size of Earth could fit inside Saturn. The planet is composed of hydrogen and helium. In the planet's outer layer, these elements are gaseous. Inside the planet, where temperature and pressure increase with depth, the hydrogen and helium act like a fluid and then, deeper still, as a liquid metal. Saturn's central rock-and-ice core is about 10-20 times Earth's mass.

the ringed planet

The main rings, which are readily seen, are just part of the extensive ring system surrounding Saturn. There are faint rings between the main rings and the planet, and more that stretch beyond, to about four times as far from the planet.

saturn data

DiAMETER 74,914 miles (120,536 km)

average distance fRoM sun 886.15 million miles (1.43 billion km)

oRBITAL period 29.46 Earth years

Rotation period 10.67 hours cloud-top temperature -292°F(-180°C )

number of moons 34+

number of moons 34+

THE PLANET'S iNTERiOR

Saturn is made of hydrogen and helium, layered according to their state. The changes between the layers are gradual. As the planet makes its rapid spin, material is flung outward to form a bulging equator, about 10 percent wider than at the poles.

core of rock and ice inner iayer of liquid metallic hydrogen and helium outer layer of liquid hydrogen and helium core of rock and ice inner iayer of liquid metallic hydrogen and helium outer layer of liquid hydrogen and helium

sATURN 113

NORTHERN WiNTER SOLSTicE

NORTHERN FALL EQUiNOX

Saturn orbits the Sun in 29.46 Earth years

SATURN'S oRBIT

saturn takes almost 29.5 years to complete one orbit around the sun. The planet's spin axis tilts from the vertical by 26.7°. In the course of one orbit, both the north and south poles point toward the sun. This results in a changing view of saturn's rings from Earth. When the north pole points to the sun, the rings are seen from above; when the south pole, from below; and they are seen edge-on in between these times.

the orbital pattern

Saturn is closest to the Sun when its south pole faces the Sun, and farthest away when the north pole faces it. The pole tilted toward the Sun is covered by seasonal smog.

NORTHERN WiNTER SOLSTicE

NORTHERN FALL EQUiNOX

Saturn orbits the Sun in 29.46 Earth years atmosphere and weather saturn's pale yellow surface is the top of its thick atmosphere. It is covered by a thin, smoggy haze. Helium raindrops within the metallic layer generate heat as they fall. this heat is transported to the lower atmosphere, where, coupled with the planet's rotation, it generates fierce winds. Near the equator, these can reach 1,200 mph (1,800 km/h ). Giant storms are a feature of the upper atmosphere.

aurora at south pole

An oval aurora, invisible to the human eye, was captured by the Cassini probe in June 2005. Solarwind particles cause hydrogen to glow blue in ultraviolet light.

atmospheric composition

The atmosphere is predominantly hydrogen; trace gases include methane, ammonia, and ethane. The visible layer is made of ammonia ice crystals, with ammonium hydrosulfide below.

gray bands are layers of high cloud

dragon storm

The pinkish feature seen here is a giant storm that was given the name "Dragon Storm." This part of Saturn's southern hemisphere is dominated by storm activity and has been nicknamed "storm alley."

helium and trace gases (3.7%)

SATURN'S RINGS AND MOONS

Saturn has 34 known moons with 13 waiting to be confirmed. Most have been discovered in the last 25 years and more are expected. Titan is the largest, followed by a few other large, spherical moons such as Dione. Most are

Euphemus Crater

TiTAN'S ATMOSPHERE

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