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Saturn Facts for Kids

Saturn Information

Equatorial Diameter: 120,536 km (75,335 miles)
Mean distance from Sun: 1,429,400,000 km (893,375,000 miles)
Orbital period (year): 29.5 Earth years
Rotation period (day): 10 hrs 14 mins
Atmosphere: 96.5% hydrogen, 3% helium,
tiny amounts of methane, ammonia, deuterium and ethane


Saturn is a giant planet where hydrogen can behave like a metal.

Neither Saturn nor Jupiter has a solid surface that you could stand on. As you go deeper from the cloud tops, the hydrogen-helium atmosphere gets thicker and thicker until it's a liquid. We think that at the center of each planet is a solid core surrounded by a layer of hydrogen which is squeezed so much that it conducts electricity like a metal.

Saturn was the father of Jupiter in Roman mythology.

Saturn was known as Cronus to the Greeks - the god of agriculture and chief of the Titans, the powerful elder gods. He ruled in the Golden Age of the universe, though it wasn't all rosy even in the Golden Age. There was a prophecy that said one of Saturn's children would overthrow him. In order to avoid this, Saturn ate his children when they were born. Ew. Yuk. However Jupiter escaped this fate and did eventually overthrow Saturn to become the ruler of the Olympian gods.

Saturn's rings are wide, but thin.

The giant planets - Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune - have rings. Except for Saturn's, these ring systems were all discovered within the last forty years. Galileo was the first to see Saturn's rings in 1610, but he couldn't tell what he was seeing in his telescope. He drew them as handles or moons either side of the planet. It was nearly half a century later that Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens, with a much better telescope, suggested that Saturn was surrounded by a ring. The diameter of the ring system is about the same as the distance from the Earth to the Moon, but, according to the Hubblesite, they can be as little as ten meters (thirty feet) thick.

Saturn would float if there were a big enough ocean.

Even though Saturn is very large, its gravitational pull at the cloudtops is only slightly greater than Earth's. Someone weighing 100 lbs on Earth would weigh 107 lbs on Saturn. (On Jupiter it would be a whopping 236 lbs!) This is because most of the material of Saturn is fairly lightweight. Its average density is less than that of water, which is why it should float!

Saturn has seasons.

A planet has seasons because its axis of rotation is tilted. (For more information about this, click on the link at the bottom of this article.) Earth's axis is tilted 23 degrees and Saturn's 27 degrees, so there is a similar pattern of seasons. Saturn would be much colder, of course, and each season would be over seven Earth years long.

Saturn has at least 62 moons.

Although Saturn has dozens of moons, almost all of them are tiny. Over 90% of it the total mass of the moons plus the rings belongs to one moon: Titan. You can find out more about these fascinating moons by clicking on the link at the end of the article.

Saturn has terrible weather.

If you like it warm and sunny, then you probably shouldn't plan any vacations to Saturn. The good news is that it doesn't rain there. The rest of the weather news is bad. Saturn is nearly ten times as far away from the Sun as Earth is, so it's not only cold, but the sunlight is very weak. And winds can get as high as 1800 km/h (1125 mph). The highest wind recorded on Earth was a tropical cyclone with gusts of 400 km/hr (250 mph). Saturn also has thunderstorms (but without the rain) with lightning bolts thousands of times more powerful than anything on Earth.

Reference:

NASA Solar System Exploration: Saturn, http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/profile.cfm?Object=Saturn (accessed 2011-04-08)

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