Winner - Ireland
Author: John Fanning
Saturn was discovered by Christiaan Huygens. saturn is one of the 5 planets that you can see with the naked eye. it takes a telescope to see the rings however. Saturn was named after the ancient greek god of Agriculture: Kronos. No one knew that Saturn had rings until the 1600's, Galileo discovered them with his telescope in 1610. Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun and the second largest planet in the Solar System. While only one-eighth the average density of Earth, with its larger volume Saturn is just over 95 times more massive. Saturn's interior is probably composed of a core of iron, nickel and rock. The planet exhibits a pale yellow hue due to ammonia crystals in its upper atmosphere. . Wind speeds on Saturn can reach 1,800 km/h. Saturn has a prominent ring system that consists of nine continuous main rings and three discontinuous arcs, composed mostly of ice particles with a smaller amount of rocky debris and dust. Saturn is classified as a gas giant because the exterior is predominantly composed of gas and it lacks a definite surface, although it may have a solid core.
Saturn is the only planet of the Solar System that is less dense than water—about 30% less. Although Saturn's core is considerably denser than water. The outer atmosphere of Saturn contains 96.3% molecular hydrogen and 3.25% helium. The proportion of helium is significantly deficient compared to the abundance of this element in the Sun. The quantity of elements heavier than helium are 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.
There have been three main phases in the observation and exploration of Saturn. Starting in the 17th century progressively more advanced telescopic observations from earth have been made. The other type is by visiting it by aircraft, either by rbiting it or flying by it. On July 1, 2004, the Cassini–Huygens space probe performed the SOI (Saturn Orbit Insertion) maneuver and entered into orbit around Saturn.Before the SOI, Cassini had already studied the system extensively. In June 2004, it had conducted a close flyby of Phoebe, sending back high-resolution images and data. Saturn orbits the Sun further away than Earth. And because of this, the orbit of Saturn takes much longer than the orbit of Earth. How much longer? It takes Saturn 29.45 years (or 10,759 days) to orbit the Sun.
Astronomers call the length of time an object takes to go around the Sun its orbital period. So the orbital period of Saturn is 29.45 years.In the past spacecraft have taken greatly different amounts of time to make it to Saturn. Pioneer 11 took six and a half years to arrive. Voyager 1 took three years and two months, Voyager 2 took four years, and the Cassini spacecraft took six years and nine months to arrive. The New Horizons spacecraft took a short two years and four months to arrive on the scene. The first factor to consider is whether the spacecraft is launched directly toward Saturn or if the spacecraft is sent toward other celestial objects to uses their gravity to slingshot itself to Saturn. Another factor is consider is the type of engine propelling the spacecraft, and a third factor to think about is that it takes a great deal of time to slow down, so if a spacecraft is simply going to flyby, it need to slowdown, but if it is to orbit, its trip to Saturn will take longer.With those factors in mind, lets look a the mission mentioned above.
Pioneer 11 and Cassini used the gravitational influence of different planets before making their way to Saturn. These flybys of other planets added years to their trip. Voyager 1 and 2 did not meander around the Solar System so much and made their appearances near Saturn much more quickly. The New Horizons spacecraft had several distinct advantages over all of the other spacecraft mentioned. The two main being that it has the fastest, most advanced engine available and it was launched on a single trajectory past Saturn on its way to Pluto.The energy that Jupiter makes has been found be very high.There are several ways in which astronomical objects make energy from inside. The first is by thermonuclear fusion, the way a star makes energy. Another method is by radioactive material within the ground, the way a planet makes energy.
For the giant planets, the method which seems to be at work is the mere fact that energy is given off from when a planet is in the process of shrinking together, or collapsing on itself.The fact that Saturn is still collapsing together indicates that the process of planet formation is still going on. This process is providing the heat from within which causes the unusual motions in the atmosphere.
Saturn is sometimes called the "Jewel of the Solar System" because its ring system looks like a crown. The rings are well known, but often the question "what are Saturn's rings made of" arises. Those rings are made up of dust, rock, and ice accumulated from passing comets, meteorite impacts on Saturn's moons, and the planet's gravity pulling material from the moons. Some of the material in the ring system are as small as grains of sand, others are larger than tall buildings, while a few are up to a kilometer across. Deepening the mystery about the moons is the fact that each ring orbits at a different speed around the planet.
Saturn is not the only planet with a ring system. All of the gas giants have rings, in fact. Saturn's rings stand out because they are the largest and most vivid. The rings have a thickness of up to one kilometer and they span up to 482,000 km from the center of the planet.
The dozens of icy moons orbiting Saturn vary in shape, size, surface age and origin. Some of these worlds have hard, rough surfaces, while others are porous bodies coated in a fine blanket of icy particles. All have greater or smaller numbers of craters, and many have ridges and valleys. Some, like Dione and Tethys, show evidence of tectonic activity (earthquakes), where forces from within ripped apart their surfaces. Many, like Rhea and Tethys, appear to have formed billions of years ago, while others, like Janus and Epimetheus, could have originally been part of larger bodies that broke up. The study of these moons tells us a great deal about Saturn System and of the solar system at large.
To date, 53 moons have been officially named. They are: Aegaeon, Aegir, Albiorix, Anthe, Atlas, Bebhionn, Bergelmir, Bestla, Calypso, Daphnis, Dione, Enceladus, Epimetheus, Erriapus, Farbauti, Fenrir, Fornjot, Greip, Hati, Helene, Hyperion, Hyrrokkin, Iapetus, Ijiraq, Janus, Jarnsaxa, Kari, Kiviuq, Loge, Methone, Mimas, Mundilfari, Narvi, Paaliaq, Pallene, Pan, Pandora, Phoebe, Polydeuces, Prometheus, Rhea, Siarnaq, Skadi, Skoll, Surtur, Suttung, Tarqeq, Tarvos, Telesto, Tethys, Thrym, Titan and Ymir.
Some facts on Saturn
Saturn is the second-largest planet in our solar system after Jupiter, which is about 20% larger than Saturn. Earth is the fifth-largest planet in our solar system.b
Saturn is not the only planet with rings. Jupiter, Uranus, and Neptune also have rings, although they are much fainter and less spectacular than Saturn's.
Saturn is the least dense planet in the solar system, and if there were a body of water large enough to hold Saturn, the planet would float. In contrast, Earth and Mercury would sink the fastest.
Approximately 750 Earths could fit into Saturn
Nearly 1,600 Saturns could fit inside the Sun.
A year on Earth is 365.256 days. A year on Saturn is 10,759.22 days.
A day on Earth is 24 hours. A day on Saturn is 10 hours 39 minutes.
Storms on Saturn can last for months or even years. A long-lived 2004 storm on Saturn, named the "Dragon Storm," created mega-lightning 1,000 times more powerful than lightning on Earth.
In early 2010, amateur astronomers spotted a massive ammonia blizzard raging on Saturn. The monster storm is five times larger than "Snowmageddon," the snowstorm that shut down Washington D.C. in February 2010.
As the seventh day of the week, Saturday is named after Saturn, the farthest of the seven objects in the solar system known in ancient times.
Many of Saturn's moons are named after the Titans, the giant brothers and sisters of the god Saturn. Others are named after Inuit, French, and Northern European giants.
The geysers on Enceladus not only feed the rings around Saturn but also may contain "ingredients for life." Only two other outer solar system objects have known active eruptions: Neptune's moon Triton and Jupiter's moon Io, which are believed to erupt nitrogen and sulfur, respectively.
Saturn's largest moon, Titan, is the only known moon to have a substantial atmosphere, which is 370 miles deep, 10 times thicker than Earth's atmosphere. Conditions on Titan may resemble ancient Earth conditions, though at a much lower temperature.
Saturn's moon Titan is the second-largest moon in the solar system. Only Jupiter's moon Ganymede (named after one of Zeus' lovers) is larger. Titan is even bigger than Mercury.
Though Saturn's rings weren't discovered until the 1600s, some scholars theorize ancient cultures may have known about them. For example, the Maori in New Zealand have historically referred to Saturn as Parearau, an ancient name that means "surrounded by a headband."
More than any other planet in our solar system, Saturn's weather is determined by conditions deep in the planet rather than by the Sun. This is partly because Saturn is so far away from the Sun and generates heat internally.
Traveling to Saturn by car at 70 miles (117 km.) per hour would take 1,292 years when Saturn is closest to Earth. It would take 1,595 years when Saturn is at its farthest.
Because Saturn spins on a tilt, it has seasons. Summer on Saturn lasts about eight Earth years.
The atmospheric pressure on Saturn is over 100 times greater than the Earth's atmospheric pressure. The pressure is so powerful that it squeezes gas into liquid. It would crush any human-made spacecraft.
Saturn gives off more than twice as much heat as it receives from the Sun. Scientists believe Saturn generates heat when helium sinks slowly through liquid hydrogen deep inside the planet. In fact, the temperature at Saturn's core is estimated to be about 21,150° F (11,700° C), which is almost as hot as the surface of the Sun.
Saturn's rings are only a few hundred feet thick, which is less than half the length of a football field.
Though it was once thought that they formed around the time of the dinosaurs, information gathered from the Cassini probe suggests that Saturn has had its rings throughout its history.
Only Jupiter has more moons (63) than Saturn (61), not counting Saturn's hundreds of "moonlets."
Because Saturn is so far from the Sun, the Sun would appear 10 times smaller viewed from Saturn than it does from Earth. On average, Earth receives 90 times more sunlight than Saturn
Scientists speculate that Saturn's rings may disappear in 50 million years. Saturn's gravititional pull will either suck the rings into the planet, or the rings will dissolve into space.
Saturn's rings seem to disappear about every 14 years. Scientists believe that the rings seem to disappear when Saturn is tilted directly in line with Earth.
Saturn's moon Titan is a very noisy place. The sound of the wind on Titan is intensified because Titan's thick air conducts sound waves so well Saturn's nearest moon takes just 12 hours to circle the planet. Its farthest moon takes more than three Earth years.a
Saturn is called a "naked eye" planet because it can be seen without a telescope or binoculars. Saturn is often the third brightest planet in the night sky and has a yellowish color that does not twinkle. Unlike stars, planets like Saturn do not twinkle because they are much closer to Earth than stars.
Future missions to Saturn include the Titan Saturn System Mission (TSSM), which will explore Saturn and its moons Titan and Enceladus. With a cost of $2.5 billion and estimated launch in 2020, the mission includes circumnavigating Titan with a hot air balloon.
All and all Saturn proves to be a beautiful planet and is probably the most beautiful in our solar system to look at.