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The Info List - Saturn


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by volume:

6999963000000000000♠96.3%±2.4% hydrogen (H 2)

6998325000000000000♠3.25%±2.4% helium (He)

6997450000000000000♠0.45%±0.2% methane (CH 4)

6996125000000000000♠0.0125%±0.0075% ammonia (NH 3)

6996109999999999999♠0.0110%±0.0058% hydrogen deuteride (HD)

6994700000000000000♠0.0007%±0.00015% ethane (C 2H 6)

Ices:

ammonia (NH 3) water (H 2O) ammonium hydrosulfide (NH 4SH)

Saturn
Saturn
is the sixth planet from the Sun
Sun
and the second-largest in the Solar System, after Jupiter. It is a gas giant with an average radius about nine times that of Earth.[10][11] It has only one-eighth the average density of Earth, but with its larger volume Saturn
Saturn
is over 95 times more massive.[12][13][14] Saturn
Saturn
is named after the Roman god of agriculture; its astronomical symbol (♄) represents the god's sickle. Saturn's interior is probably composed of a core of iron–nickel and rock (silicon and oxygen compounds). This core is surrounded by a deep layer of metallic hydrogen, an intermediate layer of liquid hydrogen and liquid helium, and finally a gaseous outer layer. Saturn
Saturn
has a pale yellow hue due to ammonia crystals in its upper atmosphere. Electrical current
Electrical current
within the metallic hydrogen layer is thought to give rise to Saturn's planetary magnetic field, which is weaker than Earth's, but has a magnetic moment 580 times that of Earth
Earth
due to Saturn's larger size. Saturn's magnetic field strength is around one-twentieth of Jupiter's.[15] The outer atmosphere is generally bland and lacking in contrast, although long-lived features can appear. Wind speeds on Saturn
Saturn
can reach 1,800 km/h (1,100 mph; 500 m/s), higher than on Jupiter, but not as high as those on Neptune.[16] The planet's most famous feature is its prominent ring system that is composed mostly of ice particles, with a smaller amount of rocky debris and dust. At least 62 moons[17] are known to orbit Saturn, of which 53 are officially named. This does not include the hundreds of moonlets in the rings. Titan, Saturn's largest moon, and the second-largest in the Solar System, is larger than the planet Mercury, although less massive, and is the only moon in the Solar System
Solar System
to have a substantial atmosphere.[18]

Contents

1 Physical characteristics

1.1 Internal structure 1.2 Atmosphere

1.2.1 Cloud layers 1.2.2 North pole hexagonal cloud pattern 1.2.3 South pole vortex 1.2.4 Other features

1.3 Magnetosphere

2 Orbit and rotation 3 Natural satellites

3.1 Planetary rings

4 History of observation and exploration

4.1 Ancient observations 4.2 European observations (17th–19th centuries) 4.3 Modern NASA
NASA
and ESA probes

4.3.1 Pioneer 11
Pioneer 11
flyby 4.3.2 Voyager flybys 4.3.3 Cassini–Huygens
Cassini–Huygens
spacecraft 4.3.4 Possible future missions

5 Observation 6 Notes 7 References 8 Further reading 9 External links

Physical characteristics

Composite image comparing the sizes of Saturn
Saturn
and Earth

Saturn
Saturn
is a gas giant because it is predominantly composed of hydrogen and helium. It lacks a definite surface, though it may have a solid core.[19] Saturn's rotation causes it to have the shape of an oblate spheroid; that is, it is flattened at the poles and bulges at its equator. Its equatorial and polar radii differ by almost 10%: 60,268 km versus 54,364 km.[5] Jupiter, Uranus, and Neptune, the other giant planets in the Solar System, are also oblate but to a lesser extent. The combination of the bulge and rotation rate means that the effective surface gravity along the equator, 7000896000000000000♠8.96 m/s2, is 74% that at the poles and is lower than the surface gravity of the Earth. However, the equatorial escape velocity of nearly 7004360000000000000♠36 km/s is much higher than that for the Earth.[20] Saturn
Saturn
is the only planet of the Solar System
Solar System
that is less dense than water—about 30% less.[21] Although Saturn's core is considerably denser than water, the average specific density of the planet is 7002690000000000000♠0.69 g/cm3 due to the atmosphere. Jupiter has 318 times the Earth's mass,[22] and Saturn
Saturn
is 95 times the mass of the Earth.[5] Together, Jupiter
Jupiter
and Saturn
Saturn
hold 92% of the total planetary mass in the Solar System.[23] Internal structure

Diagram of Saturn, to scale

Despite consisting mostly of hydrogen and helium, most of Saturn's mass is not in the gas phase, because hydrogen becomes a non-ideal liquid when the density is above 7001100000000000000♠0.01 g/cm3, which is reached at a radius containing 99.9% of Saturn's mass. The temperature, pressure, and density inside Saturn
Saturn
all rise steadily toward the core, which causes hydrogen to be a metal in the deeper layers.[23] Standard planetary models suggest that the interior of Saturn
Saturn
is similar to that of Jupiter, having a small rocky core surrounded by hydrogen and helium with trace amounts of various volatiles.[24] This core is similar in composition to the Earth, but more dense. Examination of Saturn's gravitational moment, in combination with physical models of the interior, has allowed constraints to be placed on the mass of Saturn's core. In 2004, scientists estimated that the core must be 9–22 times the mass of the Earth,[25][26] which corresponds to a diameter of about 25,000 km.[27] This is surrounded by a thicker liquid metallic hydrogen layer, followed by a liquid layer of helium-saturated molecular hydrogen that gradually transitions to a gas with increasing altitude. The outermost layer spans 1,000 km and consists of gas.[28][29][30] Saturn
Saturn
has a hot interior, reaching 11,700 °C at its core, and it radiates 2.5 times more energy into space than it receives from the Sun. Jupiter's thermal energy is generated by the Kelvin–Helmholtz mechanism of slow gravitational compression, but such a process alone may not be sufficient to explain heat production for Saturn, because it is less massive. An alternative or additional mechanism may be generation of heat through the "raining out" of droplets of helium deep in Saturn's interior. As the droplets descend through the lower-density hydrogen, the process releases heat by friction and leaves Saturn's outer layers depleted of helium.[31][32] These descending droplets may have accumulated into a helium shell surrounding the core.[24] Rainfalls of diamonds have been suggested to occur within Saturn, as well as in Jupiter[33] and ice giants Uranus and Neptune.[34] Atmosphere

Methane
Methane
bands circle Saturn. The moon Dione hangs below the rings to the right.

The outer atmosphere of Saturn
Saturn
contains 96.3% molecular hydrogen and 3.25% helium by volume.[35] The proportion of helium is significantly deficient compared to the abundance of this element in the Sun.[24] The quantity of elements heavier than helium (metallicity) is not known precisely, but the proportions are assumed to match the primordial abundances from the formation of the Solar System. The total mass of these heavier elements is estimated to be 19–31 times the mass of the Earth, with a significant fraction located in Saturn's core region.[36] Trace amounts of ammonia, acetylene, ethane, propane, phosphine and methane have been detected in Saturn's atmosphere.[37][38][39] The upper clouds are composed of ammonia crystals, while the lower level clouds appear to consist of either ammonium hydrosulfide (NH 4SH) or water.[40] Ultraviolet
Ultraviolet
radiation from the Sun
Sun
causes methane photolysis in the upper atmosphere, leading to a series of hydrocarbon chemical reactions with the resulting products being carried downward by eddies and diffusion. This photochemical cycle is modulated by Saturn's annual seasonal cycle.[39] Cloud layers

A global storm girdles the planet in 2011. The head of the storm (bright area) passes the tail circling around the left limb.

Saturn's atmosphere exhibits a banded pattern similar to Jupiter's, but Saturn's bands are much fainter and are much wider near the equator. The nomenclature used to describe these bands is the same as on Jupiter. Saturn's finer cloud patterns were not observed until the flybys of the Voyager spacecraft during the 1980s. Since then, Earth-based telescopy has improved to the point where regular observations can be made.[41] The composition of the clouds varies with depth and increasing pressure. In the upper cloud layers, with the temperature in the range 100–160 K and pressures extending between 0.5–2 bar, the clouds consist of ammonia ice. Water
Water
ice clouds begin at a level where the pressure is about 2.5 bar and extend down to 9.5 bar, where temperatures range from 185–270 K. Intermixed in this layer is a band of ammonium hydrosulfide ice, lying in the pressure range 3–6 bar with temperatures of 190–235 K. Finally, the lower layers, where pressures are between 10–20 bar and temperatures are 270–330 K, contains a region of water droplets with ammonia in aqueous solution.[42] Saturn's usually bland atmosphere occasionally exhibits long-lived ovals and other features common on Jupiter. In 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope
Telescope
imaged an enormous white cloud near Saturn's equator that was not present during the Voyager encounters, and in 1994 another smaller storm was observed. The 1990 storm was an example of a Great White Spot, a unique but short-lived phenomenon that occurs once every Saturnian year, roughly every 30 Earth
Earth
years, around the time of the northern hemisphere's summer solstice.[43] Previous Great White Spots were observed in 1876, 1903, 1933 and 1960, with the 1933 storm being the most famous. If the periodicity is maintained, another storm will occur in about 2020.[44] The winds on Saturn
Saturn
are the second fastest among the Solar System's planets, after Neptune's. Voyager data indicate peak easterly winds of 500 m/s (1,800 km/h).[45] In images from the Cassini spacecraft during 2007, Saturn's northern hemisphere displayed a bright blue hue, similar to Uranus. The color was most likely caused by Rayleigh scattering.[46] Thermography
Thermography
has shown that Saturn's south pole has a warm polar vortex, the only known example of such a phenomenon in the Solar System.[47] Whereas temperatures on Saturn
Saturn
are normally −185 °C, temperatures on the vortex often reach as high as −122 °C, suspected to be the warmest spot on Saturn.[47] North pole hexagonal cloud pattern

Saturn's north pole (IR animation)

Main article: Saturn's hexagon A persisting hexagonal wave pattern around the north polar vortex in the atmosphere at about 78°N was first noted in the Voyager images.[48][49][50] The sides of the hexagon are each about 13,800 km (8,600 mi) long, which is longer than the diameter of the Earth.[51] The entire structure rotates with a period of 10h 39m 24s (the same period as that of the planet's radio emissions) which is assumed to be equal to the period of rotation of Saturn's interior.[52] The hexagonal feature does not shift in longitude like the other clouds in the visible atmosphere.[53] The pattern's origin is a matter of much speculation. Most scientists think it is a standing wave pattern in the atmosphere. Polygonal shapes have been replicated in the laboratory through differential rotation of fluids.[54][55] South pole vortex

Saturn's south pole

HST imaging of the south polar region indicates the presence of a jet stream, but no strong polar vortex nor any hexagonal standing wave.[56] NASA
NASA
reported in November 2006 that Cassini had observed a "hurricane-like" storm locked to the south pole that had a clearly defined eyewall.[57][58] Eyewall
Eyewall
clouds had not previously been seen on any planet other than Earth. For example, images from the Galileo spacecraft did not show an eyewall in the Great Red Spot
Great Red Spot
of Jupiter.[59] The south pole storm may have been present for billions of years.[60] This vortex is comparable to the size of Earth, and it has winds of 550 km/h.[60] Other features Cassini has observed a series of cloud features nicknamed "String of Pearls" found in northern latitudes. These features are cloud clearings that reside in deeper cloud layers.[61] Magnetosphere Main article: Magnetosphere
Magnetosphere
of Saturn

Polar aurorae on Saturn

Auroral lights at Saturn’s north pole[62]

Saturn
Saturn
has an intrinsic magnetic field that has a simple, symmetric shape – a magnetic dipole. Its strength at the equator – 0.2 gauss (20 µT) – is approximately one twentieth of that of the field around Jupiter
Jupiter
and slightly weaker than Earth's magnetic field.[15] As a result, Saturn's magnetosphere is much smaller than Jupiter's.[63] When Voyager 2
Voyager 2
entered the magnetosphere, the solar wind pressure was high and the magnetosphere extended only 19 Saturn
Saturn
radii, or 1.1 million km (712,000 mi),[64] although it enlarged within several hours, and remained so for about three days.[65] Most probably, the magnetic field is generated similarly to that of Jupiter
Jupiter
– by currents in the liquid metallic-hydrogen layer called a metallic-hydrogen dynamo.[63] This magnetosphere is efficient at deflecting the solar wind particles from the Sun. The moon Titan orbits within the outer part of Saturn's magnetosphere and contributes plasma from the ionized particles in Titan's outer atmosphere.[15] Saturn's magnetosphere, like Earth's, produces aurorae.[66] Orbit and rotation

Saturn
Saturn
and rings as viewed by the Cassini spacecraft (28 October 2016)

The average distance between Saturn
Saturn
and the Sun
Sun
is over 1.4 billion kilometers (9 AU). With an average orbital speed of 9.68 km/s,[5] it takes Saturn
Saturn
10,759 Earth
Earth
days (or about ​29 1⁄2 years),[67] to finish one revolution around the Sun.[5] As a consequence, it forms a near 5:2 mean-motion resonance with Jupiter.[68] The elliptical orbit of Saturn
Saturn
is inclined 2.48° relative to the orbital plane of the Earth.[5] The perihelion and aphelion distances are, respectively, 9.195 and 9.957 AU, on average.[5][69] The visible features on Saturn
Saturn
rotate at different rates depending on latitude and multiple rotation periods have been assigned to various regions (as in Jupiter's case). Astronomers use three different systems for specifying the rotation rate of Saturn. System I has a period of 10 hr 14 min 00 sec (844.3°/d) and encompasses the Equatorial Zone, the South Equatorial Belt and the North Equatorial Belt. The polar regions are considered to have rotation rates similar to System I. All other Saturnian latitudes, excluding the north and south polar regions, are indicated as System II and have been assigned a rotation period of 10 hr 38 min 25.4 sec (810.76°/d). System III refers to Saturn's internal rotation rate. Based on radio emissions from the planet in the period of the Voyager flybys, it has been assigned a rotation period of 10 hr 39 min 22.4 sec (810.8°/d). Because it is close to System II, it has largely superseded it.[70] A precise value for the rotation period of the interior remains elusive. While approaching Saturn
Saturn
in 2004, Cassini found that the radio rotation period of Saturn
Saturn
had increased appreciably, to approximately 10 hr 45 min 45 sec (± 36 sec).[71][72] The latest estimate of Saturn's rotation (as an indicated rotation rate for Saturn
Saturn
as a whole) based on a compilation of various measurements from the Cassini, Voyager and Pioneer probes was reported in September 2007 is 10 hr 32 min 35 sec.[73] In March 2007, it was found that the variation of radio emissions from the planet did not match Saturn's rotation rate. This variance may be caused by geyser activity on Saturn's moon Enceladus. The water vapor emitted into Saturn's orbit by this activity becomes charged and creates a drag upon Saturn's magnetic field, slowing its rotation slightly relative to the rotation of the planet.[74][75][76] An apparent oddity for Saturn
Saturn
is that it does not have any known trojan asteroids. These are minor planets that orbit the Sun
Sun
at the stable Lagrangian points, designated L4 and L5, located at 60° angles to the planet along its orbit. Trojan asteroids have been discovered for Mars, Jupiter, Uranus, and Neptune. Orbital resonance
Orbital resonance
mechanisms, including secular resonance, are believed to be the cause of the missing Saturnian trojans.[77] Natural satellites Main article: Moons of Saturn

A montage of Saturn
Saturn
and its principal moons (Dione, Tethys, Mimas, Enceladus, Rhea and Titan; Iapetus not shown). This famous image was created from photographs taken in November 1980 by the Voyager 1 spacecraft.

Saturn
Saturn
has 62 known moons, 53 of which have formal names.[78][79] In addition, there is evidence of dozens to hundreds of moonlets with diameters of 40–500 meters in Saturn's rings,[80] which are not considered to be true moons. Titan, the largest moon, comprises more than 90% of the mass in orbit around Saturn, including the rings.[81] Saturn's second-largest moon, Rhea, may have a tenuous ring system of its own,[82] along with a tenuous atmosphere.[83][84][85]

Possible beginning of a new moon (white dot) of Saturn
Saturn
(image taken by Cassini on 15 April 2013)

Many of the other moons are small: 34 are less than 10 km in diameter and another 14 between 10 and 50 km in diameter.[86] Traditionally, most of Saturn's moons have been named after Titans of Greek mythology. Titan is the only satellite in the Solar System
Solar System
with a major atmosphere,[87][88] in which a complex organic chemistry occurs. It is the only satellite with hydrocarbon lakes.[89][90] On 6 June 2013, scientists at the IAA-CSIC reported the detection of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the upper atmosphere of Titan, a possible precursor for life.[91] On 23 June 2014, NASA
NASA
claimed to have strong evidence that nitrogen in the atmosphere of Titan came from materials in the Oort cloud, associated with comets, and not from the materials that formed Saturn
Saturn
in earlier times.[92] Saturn's moon Enceladus, which seems similar in chemical makeup to comets,[93] has often been regarded as a potential habitat for microbial life.[94][95][96][97] Evidence of this possibility includes the satellite's salt-rich particles having an "ocean-like" composition that indicates most of Enceladus's expelled ice comes from the evaporation of liquid salt water.[98][99][100] A 2015 flyby by Cassini through a plume on Enceladus
Enceladus
found most of the ingredients to sustain life forms that live by methanogenesis.[101] In April 2014, NASA
NASA
scientists reported the possible beginning of a new moon within the A Ring, which was imaged by Cassini on 15 April 2013.[102] Planetary rings Main article: Rings of Saturn

The rings of Saturn
Saturn
(imaged here by Cassini in 2007) are the most massive and conspicuous in the Solar System.[29]

False-color UV image of Saturn's outer B and A rings; dirtier ringlets in the Cassini Division
Cassini Division
and Encke Gap show up red.

Saturn
Saturn
is probably best known for the system of planetary rings that makes it visually unique.[29] The rings extend from 6,630 to 120,700 kilometers (4,120 to 75,000 mi) outward from Saturn's equator and average approximately 20 meters (66 ft) in thickness. They are composed predominantly of water ice with trace amounts of tholin impurities, and a peppered coating of approximately 7% amorphous carbon.[103] The particles that make up the rings range in size from specks of dust up to 10 m.[104] While the other gas giants also have ring systems, Saturn's is the largest and most visible. There are two main hypotheses regarding the origin of the rings. One hypothesis is that the rings are remnants of a destroyed moon of Saturn. The second hypothesis is that the rings are left over from the original nebular material from which Saturn
Saturn
formed. Some ice in the E ring comes from the moon Enceladus's geysers.[105][106][107][108] The water abundance of the rings vary radially, with the outermost ring A being the most pure in ice water. This abundance variance may be explained by meteor bombardment.[109] Beyond the main rings at a distance of 12 million km from the planet is the sparse Phoebe ring, which is tilted at an angle of 27° to the other rings and, like Phoebe, orbits in retrograde fashion.[110] Some of the moons of Saturn, including Pandora and Prometheus, act as shepherd moons to confine the rings and prevent them from spreading out.[111] Pan and Atlas cause weak, linear density waves in Saturn's rings that have yielded more reliable calculations of their masses.[112] History of observation and exploration There have been three main phases in the observation and exploration of Saturn. The first era was ancient observations (such as with the naked eye), before the invention of the modern telescopes. Starting in the 17th century progressively more advanced telescopic observations from Earth
Earth
have been made. The other type is visitation by spacecraft, either by orbiting or flyby. In the 21st century observations continue from the Earth
Earth
(or Earth-orbiting observatories) and from the Cassini orbiter at Saturn. Ancient observations See also: Saturn
Saturn
(mythology) Saturn
Saturn
has been known since prehistoric times.[113] In ancient times, it was the most distant of the known planets in the Solar System
Solar System
and thus a major character in various mythologies. Babylonian astronomers systematically observed and recorded the movements of Saturn.[114] In ancient Roman mythology, the god Saturnus, from which the planet takes its name, was the god of agriculture.[115] The Romans considered Saturnus the equivalent of the Greek god Cronus.[115] The Greeks had made the outermost planet sacred to Cronus,[116] and the Romans followed suit. (In modern Greek, the planet retains its ancient name Cronus—Κρόνος: Kronos.)[117] The Greek scientist Ptolemy
Ptolemy
based his calculations of Saturn's orbit on observations he made while it was in opposition.[118] In Hindu astrology, there are nine astrological objects, known as Navagrahas. Saturn
Saturn
is known as "Shani" and judges everyone based on the good and bad deeds performed in life.[115][118] Ancient Chinese and Japanese culture designated the planet Saturn
Saturn
as the "earth star" (土星). This was based on Five Elements which were traditionally used to classify natural elements.[119][120][121] In ancient Hebrew, Saturn
Saturn
is called 'Shabbathai'.[122] Its angel is Cassiel. Its intelligence or beneficial spirit is Agiel (layga) and its spirit (darker aspect) is Zazel (lzaz). In Ottoman Turkish, Urdu and Malay, its name is 'Zuhal', derived from Arabic زحل. European observations (17th–19th centuries)

Robert Hooke
Robert Hooke
noted the shadows (a and b) cast by both the globe and the rings on each other in this drawing of Saturn
Saturn
in 1666.

Saturn's rings require at least a 15-mm-diameter telescope[123] to resolve and thus were not known to exist until Galileo
Galileo
first saw them in 1610.[124][125] He thought of them as two moons on Saturn's sides.[126][127] It was not until Christiaan Huygens
Christiaan Huygens
used greater telescopic magnification that this notion was refuted. Huygens discovered Saturn's moon Titan; Giovanni Domenico Cassini
Giovanni Domenico Cassini
later discovered four other moons: Iapetus, Rhea, Tethys and Dione. In 1675, Cassini discovered the gap now known as the Cassini Division.[128] No further discoveries of significance were made until 1789 when William Herschel
William Herschel
discovered two further moons, Mimas and Enceladus. The irregularly shaped satellite Hyperion, which has a resonance with Titan, was discovered in 1848 by a British team.[129] In 1899 William Henry Pickering
William Henry Pickering
discovered Phoebe, a highly irregular satellite that does not rotate synchronously with Saturn
Saturn
as the larger moons do.[129] Phoebe was the first such satellite found and it takes more than a year to orbit Saturn
Saturn
in a retrograde orbit. During the early 20th century, research on Titan led to the confirmation in 1944 that it had a thick atmosphere – a feature unique among the Solar System's moons.[130] Modern NASA
NASA
and ESA probes Main article: Exploration of Saturn Pioneer 11
Pioneer 11
flyby

Pioneer 11
Pioneer 11
image of Saturn

Pioneer 11
Pioneer 11
made the first flyby of Saturn
Saturn
in September 1979, when it passed within 20,000 km of the planet's cloud tops. Images were taken of the planet and a few of its moons, although their resolution was too low to discern surface detail. The spacecraft also studied Saturn's rings, revealing the thin F-ring and the fact that dark gaps in the rings are bright when viewed at high phase angle (towards the Sun), meaning that they contain fine light-scattering material. In addition, Pioneer 11
Pioneer 11
measured the temperature of Titan.[131] Voyager flybys In November 1980, the Voyager 1
Voyager 1
probe visited the Saturn
Saturn
system. It sent back the first high-resolution images of the planet, its rings and satellites. Surface features of various moons were seen for the first time. Voyager 1
Voyager 1
performed a close flyby of Titan, increasing knowledge of the atmosphere of the moon. It proved that Titan's atmosphere is impenetrable in visible wavelengths; therefore no surface details were seen. The flyby changed the spacecraft's trajectory out from the plane of the Solar System.[132] Almost a year later, in August 1981, Voyager 2
Voyager 2
continued the study of the Saturn
Saturn
system. More close-up images of Saturn's moons were acquired, as well as evidence of changes in the atmosphere and the rings. Unfortunately, during the flyby, the probe's turnable camera platform stuck for a couple of days and some planned imaging was lost. Saturn's gravity was used to direct the spacecraft's trajectory towards Uranus.[132] The probes discovered and confirmed several new satellites orbiting near or within the planet's rings, as well as the small Maxwell Gap
Maxwell Gap
(a gap within the C Ring) and Keeler gap
Keeler gap
(a 42 km wide gap in the A Ring). Cassini–Huygens
Cassini–Huygens
spacecraft Main article: Cassini–Huygens The Cassini–Huygens
Cassini–Huygens
space probe entered orbit around Saturn
Saturn
on 1 July 2004. In June 2004, it conducted a close flyby of Phoebe, sending back high-resolution images and data. Cassini's flyby of Saturn's largest moon, Titan, captured radar images of large lakes and their coastlines with numerous islands and mountains. The orbiter completed two Titan flybys before releasing the Huygens probe
Huygens probe
on 25 December 2004. Huygens descended onto the surface of Titan on 14 January 2005.[133] Starting in early 2005, scientists used Cassini to track lightning on Saturn. The power of the lightning is approximately 1,000 times that of lightning on Earth.[134]

At Enceladus's south pole geysers spray water from many locations along the tiger stripes.[135]

In 2006, NASA
NASA
reported that Cassini had found evidence of liquid water reservoirs no more than tens of meters below the surface that erupt in geysers on Saturn's moon Enceladus. These jets of icy particles are emitted into orbit around Saturn
Saturn
from vents in the moon's south polar region.[136] Over 100 geysers have been identified on Enceladus.[135] In May 2011, NASA
NASA
scientists reported that Enceladus
Enceladus
"is emerging as the most habitable spot beyond Earth
Earth
in the Solar System
Solar System
for life as we know it".[137][138] Cassini photographs have revealed a previously undiscovered planetary ring, outside the brighter main rings of Saturn
Saturn
and inside the G and E rings. The source of this ring is hypothesized to be the crashing of a meteoroid off Janus and Epimetheus.[139] In July 2006, images were returned of hydrocarbon lakes near Titan's north pole, the presence of which were confirmed in January 2007. In March 2007, hydrocarbon seas were found near the North pole, the largest of which is almost the size of the Caspian Sea.[140] In October 2006, the probe detected an 8,000 km diameter cyclone-like storm with an eyewall at Saturn's south pole.[141] From 2004 to 2 November 2009, the probe discovered and confirmed eight new satellites.[142] In April 2013 Cassini sent back images of a hurricane at the planet's north pole 20 times larger than those found on Earth, with winds faster than 530 km/h (330 mph).[143] On 15 September 2017, the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft performed the "Grand Finale" of its mission: a number of passes through gaps between Saturn and Saturn's inner rings.[144][145] The atmospheric entry of Cassini ended the mission. Possible future missions The continued exploration of Saturn
Saturn
is still considered to be a viable option for NASA
NASA
as part of their ongoing New Frontiers program of missions. NASA
NASA
previously requested for plans to be put forward for a mission to Saturn
Saturn
that included an atmospheric entry probe and possible investigations into the habitability and possible discovery of life on Saturn's moons Titan and Enceladus.[146] Observation

Amateur telescopic view of Saturn

Saturn
Saturn
is the most distant of the five planets easily visible to the naked eye from Earth, the other four being Mercury, Venus, Mars
Mars
and Jupiter. ( Uranus
Uranus
and occasionally 4 Vesta
4 Vesta
are visible to the naked eye in dark skies.) Saturn
Saturn
appears to the naked eye in the night sky as a bright, yellowish point of light with an apparent magnitude of usually between +1 and 0. It takes approximately 29.5 years for the planet to complete an entire circuit of the ecliptic against the background constellations of the zodiac. Most people will require an optical aid (very large binoculars or a small telescope) that magnifies at least 30 times to achieve an image of Saturn's rings, in which clear resolution is present.[29][123] Twice every Saturnian year (roughly every 15 Earth
Earth
years), the rings briefly disappear from view, due to the way in which they are angled and because they are so thin. Such a "disappearance" will next occur in 2025, but Saturn
Saturn
will be too close to the Sun
Sun
for any ring-crossing observation to be possible.[147]

Simulated appearance of Saturn
Saturn
as seen from Earth
Earth
(at opposition) during an orbit of Saturn, 2001-2029

Saturn
Saturn
eclipses the Sun, as seen from Cassini. The rings are visible, including the F Ring.

Saturn
Saturn
and its rings are best seen when the planet is at, or near, opposition, the configuration of a planet when it is at an elongation of 180°, and thus appears opposite the Sun
Sun
in the sky. A Saturnian opposition occurs every year—approximately every 378 days—and results in the planet appearing at its brightest. Both the Earth
Earth
and Saturn
Saturn
orbit the Sun
Sun
on eccentric orbits, which means their distances from the Sun
Sun
vary over time, and therefore so do their distances from each other, hence varying the brightness of Saturn
Saturn
from one opposition to the next. Saturn
Saturn
also appears brighter when the rings are angled such that they are more visible. For example, during the opposition of 17 December 2002, Saturn
Saturn
appeared at its brightest due to a favorable orientation of its rings relative to the Earth,[148] even though Saturn
Saturn
was closer to the Earth
Earth
and Sun
Sun
in late 2003.[148] From time to time Saturn
Saturn
is occulted by the Moon
Moon
(that is, the Moon covers up Saturn
Saturn
in the sky). As with all the planets in the Solar System, occultations of Saturn
Saturn
occur in "seasons". Saturnian occultations will take place 12 or more times over a 12-month period, followed by about a five-year period in which no such activity is registered.[149] Australian astronomy experts Hill and Horner explain the seasonal nature of Saturnian occultations:

This is the result of the fact that the moon’s orbit around the Earth
Earth
is tilted to the orbit of the Earth
Earth
around the Sun
Sun
– and so most of the time, the moon will pass above or below Saturn
Saturn
in the sky, and no occultation will occur. It is only when Saturn
Saturn
lies near the point that the moon’s orbit crosses the "plane of the ecliptic" that occultations can happen – and then they occur every time the moon swings by, until Saturn
Saturn
moves away from the crossing point.[149]

Farewell to Saturn
Saturn
and moons (Enceladus, Epimetheus, Janus, Mimas, Pandora and Prometheus), by Cassini (21 November 2017).

Notes

^ a b c d e f g h Refers to the level of 1 bar atmospheric pressure ^ Based on the volume within the level of 1 bar atmospheric pressure

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Further reading

Alexander, Arthur Francis O'Donel (1980) [1962]. The Planet
Planet
Saturn
Saturn
- A History of Observation, Theory and Discovery. Dover. ISBN 978-0-486-23927-9.  Gore, Rick (July 1981). " Voyager 1
Voyager 1
at Saturn: Riddles of the Rings". National Geographic. Vol. 160 no. 1. pp. 3–31. ISSN 0027-9358. OCLC 643483454.  Lovett, L.; et al. (2006). Saturn: A New View. Harry N. Abrams. ISBN 978-0-8109-3090-2.  Karttunen, H.; et al. (2007). Fundamental Astronomy
Astronomy
(5th ed.). Springer. ISBN 978-3-540-34143-7.  Seidelmann, P. Kenneth; et al. (2007). "Report of the IAU/IAG Working Group on cartographic coordinates and rotational elements: 2006". Celestial Mechanics and Dynamical Astronomy. 98 (3): 155–180. Bibcode:2007CeMDA..98..155S. doi:10.1007/s10569-007-9072-y.  de Pater, Imke; Lissauer, Jack J. (2015). Planetary Sciences (2nd updated ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 250. ISBN 978-0-521-85371-2. 

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Saturn
Saturn
overview by NASA's Science Mission Directorate Saturn
Saturn
fact sheet at the NASA
NASA
Space Science Data Coordinated Archive Saturnian System terminology by the IAU Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature Cassini-Huygens legacy website by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory Saturn
Saturn
at SolarViews.com

v t e

Saturn

Outline of Saturn

Geography

Dragon Storm Great White Spot Hexagon Magnetosphere Rings

Moons

S/2009 S 1 Ring moonlets Pan Daphnis Atlas Prometheus

S/2004 S 6 S/2004 S 4 S/2004 S 3

Pandora Epimetheus Janus Aegaeon Mimas Methone Anthe Pallene Enceladus Tethys

Telesto Calypso

Dione

Helene Polydeuces

Rhea Titan Hyperion Iapetus Kiviuq Ijiraq Phoebe Paaliaq Skathi Albiorix S/2007 S 2 Bebhionn Erriapus Skoll Siarnaq Tarqeq S/2004 S 13 Greip Hyrrokkin Jarnsaxa Tarvos Mundilfari S/2006 S 1 S/2004 S 17 Bergelmir Narvi Suttungr Hati S/2004 S 12 Farbauti Thrymr Aegir S/2007 S 3 Bestla S/2004 S 7 S/2006 S 3 Fenrir Surtur Kari Ymir Loge Fornjot

Astronomy

Delta Octantis Saturn-crossing minor planets

Exploration

Cassini–Huygens
Cassini–Huygens
(Huygens)

timeline retirement

Pioneer 11 Voyager program

Voyager 1 Voyager 2

Related

Fiction

Saturn Moons

In Saturn's Rings
In Saturn's Rings
(2018 documentary)

v t e

Spacecraft missions to Saturn

Orbiters

Cassini–Huygens

timeline retirement

Landers

Huygens (Titan)

Flybys

Pioneer 11 Voyager 1 Voyager 2

Proposed missions

AVIATR Dragonfly Enceladus
Enceladus
Life Finder ( Enceladus
Enceladus
only) Enceladus
Enceladus
Explorer ( Enceladus
Enceladus
only) Explorer of Enceladus
Enceladus
and Titan Journey to Enceladus
Enceladus
and Titan Kronos Life Investigation For Enceladus
Enceladus
( Enceladus
Enceladus
only) Oceanus (Titan only) Saturn
Saturn
Atmospheric Entry Probe Saturn
Saturn
Ring Observer SPRITE TALISE (Titan only) Titan Mare Explorer
Titan Mare Explorer
(Titan only) Titan Saturn
Saturn
System Mission

Former plans

Soviet mission plan

There are no ongoing missions to Saturn

v t e

The Solar System

The Sun Mercury Venus Earth Mars Ceres Jupiter Saturn Uranus Neptune Pluto Haumea Makemake Eris

Planets

Terrestrial planets

Mercury Venus Earth Mars

Giant planets

Jupiter Saturn Uranus Neptune

Dwarf planets

Ceres Pluto Haumea Makemake Eris

Rings

Jovian Saturnian (Rhean) Charikloan Chironean Uranian Neptunian Haumean

Moons

Terrestrial

Moon other near- Earth
Earth
objects

Martian

Phobos Deimos

Jovian

Ganymede Callisto Io Europa all 69

Saturnian

Titan Rhea Iapetus Dione Tethys Enceladus Mimas Hyperion Phoebe all 62

Uranian

Titania Oberon Umbriel Ariel Miranda all 27

Neptunian

Triton Proteus Nereid all 14

Plutonian

Charon Nix Hydra Kerberos Styx

Haumean

Hiʻiaka Namaka

Makemakean

S/2015 (136472) 1

Eridian

Dysnomia

Lists

Solar System
Solar System
objects

By size By discovery date

Minor planets Gravitationally rounded objects Possible dwarf planets Natural satellites Comets

Small Solar System bodies

Meteoroids Minor planets

moons

Comets Damocloids Mercury-crossers Venus-crossers Venus
Venus
trojans Near- Earth
Earth
objects Earth-crossers Earth
Earth
trojans Mars-crossers Mars
Mars
trojans Asteroid
Asteroid
belt Asteroids

first discovered: Ceres Pallas Juno Vesta

Families Notable asteroids Kirkwood gap Main-belt comets Jupiter
Jupiter
trojans Jupiter-crossers Centaurs Saturn-crossers Uranus
Uranus
trojans Uranus-crossers Neptune
Neptune
trojans Cis-Neptunian objects Trans-Neptunian objects Neptune-crossers Plutoids Kuiper belt

Plutinos Cubewanos

Scattered disc Detached objects Sednoids Hills cloud Oort cloud

Hypothetical objects

Vulcan Vulcanoids Phaeton Planet
Planet
V Theia Fifth giant Planets beyond Neptune Tyche Nemesis Planet
Planet
Nine

Exploration (outline)

Discovery

Astronomy Timeline

Spaceflight Robotic spacecraft Human spaceflight List of crewed spacecraft Colonization List of probes Timeline

Mercury Venus Moon Mars Ceres Asteroids

Mining

Comets Jupiter Saturn Uranus Neptune Pluto Deep space

Outline of the Solar System Portals Solar System Astronomy Earth
Earth
sciences Mars Jupiter Uranus Cosmology

Solar System → Local Interstellar Cloud → Local Bubble → Gould Belt → Orion Arm → Milky Way → Milky Way
Milky Way
subgroup → Local Group → Virgo Supercluster → Laniakea Supercluster → Observable universe → Universe Each arrow (→) may be read as "within" or "part of".

v t e

Atmospheres

Star

Sun

Exoplanet

HD 209458 b Kepler-7b

Planet

Mercury Venus Earth Mars Jupiter Saturn Uranus Neptune

Dwarf planet

Ceres Pluto Makemake

Satellite

Callisto Dione Enceladus Europa Ganymede Io Moon Rhea Titan Triton

See also

Coma (cometary) Extraterrestrial atmosphere Stellar atmosphere

Authority control

WorldCat Identities VIAF: 246142422 LCCN: sh85117690 GND: 4179170-8 SUDOC: 027799042 BNF: cb11976363g (d

.