Saturn Facts for Kids

Saturn Facts for Kids
Saturn with an image of the Cassini spacecraft

A god of ancient Rome – Saturday is his day
In the myths, the Titans ruled in the Golden Age. Saturn – Cronus to the Greeks – was their chief. But a prophecy said that a child of Cronus would overthrow him. Cronus wasn't having that! So, as his children were born, he swallowed them. But Jupiter – Zeus to the Greeks – was saved by his mother Rhea. And he did overthrow Cronus. The Olympian gods replaced the Titans, and Jupiter was their ruler.

Beautiful rings
Although all the giant planets have rings, none are as beautiful as Saturn's. Galileo saw them in 1610, but he didn't know what he was seeing in his little telescope. He drew Saturn with handles on either side of the planet. A century later, Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens suggested that Saturn was surrounded by a ring. In fact, there are several rings. They're not solid, but are made mostly of ice particles. The particles are all different sizes, from bits of dust to big boulders.

Big, dizzy and far away
Saturn is the second biggest planet in the Solar System, about 120,000 km (75,000 mi) across. It rotates so fast that a day is only 10 hrs 14 mins long. Though the days are short, the years are nearly thirty Earth years long. Saturn is 9.5 AU from the Sun. An AU (astronomical unit) is the distance from the Earth to the Sun, so it's nine and a half times farther from the Sun than Earth is.

Seasons and Cassini-Huygens
Like Earth and several other planets, Saturn's axis is tilted. That means it has seasons. An Earth season lasts for about three months. However, Saturn has a much longer year, and its seasons last for over seven Earth years. The Cassini mission spent 13 years studying the planet, and its rings and moons. It arrived during Saturn's northern hemisphere winter and stayed through spring and into summer.

Being a long way from the Sun, it's cold, and the sunlight is weak. The highest wind speed ever recorded on Earth was a tropical cyclone with gusts of 400 km/hr (250 mph). On Saturn, winds can get as high as 1800 km/h (1125 mph). It doesn't rain there, but even without rain, thunderstorms can happen. And when Saturn has thunderstorms, there are lightning bolts thousands of times more powerful than anything on Earth.

Nowhere to stand
Saturn is a gas planet. It doesn't have a solid surface to stand on. As on Jupiter, the cloud layer gets thicker as you go deeper. The pressure also increases until the gas becomes liquid. Only the core (the center) of the planet is solid.

A gas acting like a metal
Earth has a magnetic field because of its iron core. Although Saturn also has a magnetic field, it doesn't have any metal. Scientists think that its core is surrounded by a layer of hydrogen that is squeezed by the extreme pressure. In these conditions, hydrogen acts like a metal.

Could Saturn float (on a big enough ocean)?
Saturn is less dense than water. And on Earth, objects less dense than water can float. Saturn is made mostly of hydrogen and helium, and it's the least dense planet in the Solar System. Earth, made mostly of rock and iron, is eight times denser than Saturn.

Dozens of moons
In October 2020, we knew of 82 moons for Saturn. But in May 2023, we know of 145! Astronomers using the Canada-France-Hawaii telescope on Mauna Kea discovered the new ones. There are lots of them, but they're small. In fact, if we add up the total mass of all the moons and rings of Saturn, 96% of the it would be the mass of one moon. That moon is Titan.

You Should Also Read:
Cassini-Huygens - the Prime Mission
Titan Facts for Kids
Jupiter - Facts for Kids

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