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Table of Contents
Facts about Saturn
Saturn is quite an exciting planet to look at because of the prominent rings around it. Saturn is the 6th planet from the Sun, orbiting between Jupiter and Uranus. A day on Saturn is 10 hours and 42 minutes, while a year is 29 Earth years. Saturn is of similar volume to Jupiter but has significantly less mass. The basic facts about Saturn are very much like Jupiter, it is most hydrogen gas. Since it is so gaseous, Saturn is actually less dense than water! If you are looking in the night sky, it is the last planet you can see with just your eyes(granted, because of light pollution, we generally cannot see it).
Titan is the second largest moon in the Solar System and has a very thick nitrogen based atmosphere, it is also -180 Celsius there. The spacecraft Huygens landed on Titan to learn more about it. Titan has hydrocarbon dunes, which is cool because hydrocarbons are organic compounds. Cryo-volcanoes on Titan spew cold water instead of lava, so it may have liquid water under the surface. There were quite a few flat lakes of liquid methane which can cause streams that look like long valleys when observed.
The second major moon, Enceladus, is about 500 km across, which has many cracks and cryo-volcanoes. The third major moon, Iapetus, is shaped like a walnut. Finally, Hyperion, the fourth major moon, looks like a huge Styrofoam which many holes.
Rings of Saturn
The rings of Jupiter are believed to have been formed by one of Saturn’s moons that broke apart. Since the rings are ice, this moon must have been icy. The rings are 10 meters thick and each is given a letter based on order of discovery, with A being the first discovered and the farthest from the planet(since it was the farthest it would be seen first). The A ring is outside the B ring which is the widest and in that is C ring
At first the A and B were thought to be connected but Giovanni Cassini discovered they aren’t, the gap between the two is known as the Cassini division. It is 5000 km across. But this gap it also has objects that orbit due to and in the exact same motion as one of its moons, Mimas. This is called resonance and it essentially means that every time Mimas completes an orbit around Saturn, these objects compete a proportional amount of orbits. This is generally two orbits per orbit of Mimas, so it is known as a 2:1 resonance orbit. There also exists and F ring, outside the A ring is very thin, made so by two moons, Pandora and Prometheus. There are internal rings beyond C which are D and E. F, or the outermost, was last discovered because of how thin it is, so do not get confused. See the picture below because it shows the positions of each ring.
The Atmosphere of Saturn
The atmosphere of Saturn is 96% Hydrogen, 3% Helium, and has a small amount of other gases like methane and sulfur. This sulfur makes clouds have a yellow tint. One special thing observed on Saturn is a hexagonal storm at the North Pole. It operates much like the Jet Stream on Earth but is much stronger. It also looks very cool!
Every post I do was intended to have a for educators section, but when it comes to an individual planet, I do not think it is necessary. Each planet should only be discussed briefly, when teaching astronomy, its more important to give the big picture and get people attracted to astronomy. As such, I am going to skip this section for most of the planets. I think a short talk about each planet is sufficient. If you have anything you’d like in this section, please let me know.
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