Introducing Questions, Answers, and Cool Things to Think About

Discovering Saturn:The Real Lord of the Rings Introducing Saturn

Mysterious rings, strange and won- equal the of Saturn. If you could derful , and bands of , brown, weigh the on a giant scale, and white, in which swirl. you would need slightly more than 95 This is the sixth from the , to equal the of Saturn! Saturn! Saturn has been called “The Saturn’s at the is Jewel of the Solar .” Look at about 9.5 Earths across. At that ratio, the pictures on this page. What other if Saturn were as big as a baseball, nicknames would you give Saturn? would be about half the of a Scientists believe that Saturn formed regular M&M candy. more than four billion ago from the same giant of and dust, whirling around the very young Sun, that formed Earth and the other plan- ets of our . But Saturn is much larger than Earth. Its mass is 95.16 Earth’s mass. In other words, it would take over 95 Earths to Introducing Saturn

Saturn spins on its axis (rotates) just as our spins on its axis. However, its of , or the it takes Saturn to spin around one time, is only 10.7 Earth . That means that a on Saturn is just a little more than 10 hours long. So, if you lived on Saturn, you would only have to be in school for a couple hours each day! Because Saturn spins so fast, and most of its interior is gas, not top and bottom. Saturn is 10 percent planets and , Saturn is clearly fatter in the middle than at the poles. visible to the naked in the , so people have known about it for Saturn is much farther from the many thousands of years. The ancient Sun than is Earth. In fact, it gets only Romans named the planet after their about 1/90 the amount of as god of agriculture. It wasn’t until 1610, does Earth. It takes Saturn almost however, that anyone saw Saturn’s 29-1/2 years to revolve once around rings. That’s when looked at the you are in Saturn years? Like the inner . But his wasn’t powerful enough to show the rings clearly, and Galileo thought he was look- ing at some kind of triple planet.

Later, in 1655, a Dutch named Christiaan (HOY-gens) looked at Saturn through a more power- Introducing Saturn

to Saturn’s largest , . We’ve never been to see Titan’s sur- face, because it’s hidden under a thick, smoggy . But Huygens para- chuted down through the atmosphere for 2-1/2 hours and spent 90 minutes ring. on Titan’s before it stopped

Although people have been observ- ing and studying Saturn for thousands and then with telescopes and , things got really exciting in July 2004. That is when the Cas- sini–Huygens spacecraft arrived at Saturn. Cassini–Huygens is really two spacecraft. The Huygens probe (named working, sending us pictures and new after the Dutch astronomer we men- information about Titan. tioned earlier) rode along with Cassini (cuh-SEEN-ee) until it went into Meanwhile, the Cassini spacecraft will Image by Cassini continue to orbit Saturn and send us information about its rings, its moons, and the planet itself until the 2017! What grade will you be in then?

Jet Propulsion Laboratory