Few facts about Saturn need to be clarified as much as its discovery. The Romans, Greeks and Hindus all knew of its existence. Galileo did not discover Saturn in the 17th century, but he was the first to study its rings.
Facts and Figures
Saturn has an equatorial diameter of 107,500 km and a polar diameter of 119,600 km. its perihelion is 1,349,000 km; the aphelion is 1,508,900 km and the mean is 1,500,000 km. The rotation is 10.66 hours. Saturn has a revolution of 29.45 years. It has more than 60 satellites, all of which have orbits.
Surface and Geology
One of the established facts about Saturn is that it’s flat at the poles while projecting at the equator. This makes it more oblate than other planets. Another notable trait is that its density is less than water.
However it has a dense core brought about by the gaseous atmosphere. Saturn is 20% smaller than Jupiter but its mass is only 95 times that of Earth. By contrast, Jupiter has a mass 300 times that of Earth.
Its internal structure is still subject to theory. Scientists believe that it is composed of helium and some elements of hydrogen. There could also be a rocky core in the center as well as other gases. The core itself is 20 times the mass of Earth. Its core temperature could reach 11,000 C.
A lot of facts about Saturn’s atmosphere have been discovered through the years. It is composed of 96% hydrogen and 3% helium. There are also traces of methane, ammonia and ethane. The higher clouds consist of ammonia crystals. The lower cloud formations are comprised of ammonium hydrosulfide.
There are other unknown elements in Saturn’s atmosphere, which are 30 times the Earth’s mass. The bottom cloud layers go down to 10 km. Here the temperature goes down to 23 C and composed of water ice.
Above this are the ammonia ice clouds with temperatures of -153 C. Almost 300 km above is a helium atmosphere. The winds on Saturn reach speeds of over 1800 km/h. It is worth noting that the helium in Saturn’s atmosphere is much lower compared to that in the sun. Most of the information about Saturn’s atmosphere were learned from the Voyager flybys.
Several facts about Saturn’s rings have also been learned through the years. The rings are on average 20 meters thick. Observations have revealed they are composed of 93% water ice, 7% of amorphous carbon with traces of tholin impurities. The particles in the ring vary in size. Some are smaller than dust. Others are as big as a car.
There are a couple of theories as to how they were formed. One is that they are the remnants of a satellite. Another theory is that they are remnants of the nebular material when Saturn first emerged. However there are no concrete evidences to support these theories yet.
More facts about Saturn are being uncovered as scientific instruments improve. Numerous orbiters have been sent to explore and examine the planet. As more spacecraft are developed, more discoveries will be made.