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This web page's content and links are no longer actively maintained. It is available for reference purposes only. NASA Official: Dr. Paul Mahaffy

Gas Chromatograph Mass Spectrometer


A world very different from Earth...

Saturn, as seen from Voyager 1 on Nov. 16, 1980

The butterscotch-colored, ringed Saturn is the sixth planet from the sun and the second largest in the Solar System, smaller only than Jupiter. It has an equatorial diameter of 119,300 kilometers (74,130 miles), and its volume would enclose 750 Earths! The mass of Saturn is 95 times the mass of Earth. However, Saturn's gravity is only 1.08 times the gravity on Earth because Saturn is such a large planet. An object weighing 100 lbs on Earth would weigh 108 lbs on Saturn.

Saturn is less dense than water. If there were a body of water large enough to hold Saturn, it would float! No other planet in the Solar System has this property.

Saturn is called a "gaseous giant" because its atmosphere is comprised of hydrogen (94%) and helium (6%). Unlike Earth, Saturn does not have a surface on which a spacecraft could land. A spacecraft descending through the clouds of Saturn would encounter gases becoming hotter and denser until finally the spacecraft would be crushed and melted.

Saturn rotates very rapidly - a day on Saturn is only 10 hours and 39 minutes long. This rapid rotation causes the planet to flatten at its poles and bulge at its equator. Despite its rapid rotation, Saturn takes a very long time to orbit the Sun - 29.5 Earth years- because (on average) it is about 9.5 times as far away from the Sun as Earth is. Because Saturn is so far from the Sun, it receives about 1% as much sunlight per square meter as does Earth.

Despite its beautiful and placid appearance, Saturn would not be a very fun place to live. The average temperature at the cloudtops is extremely cold - 88 K (which is -185 degrees Celsius or -290 degrees Fahrenheit). In addition, Saturn has a very high-velocity wind of 1,800 km/hr (1,118.468146 mph).

1st Color Composite Made From Cassini's Images

Click to continue learning about Saturn:


Top Saturn photo courtesy of Solarviews

Bottom Saturn photo courtesy of the JPL Photojournal. Image credit: NASA/JPL/Southwest Research Institute

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