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Physical Properties

Saturn is big enough to hold more than 760 Earths, and is more massive than any other planet except Jupiter, roughly 95 times Earth's mass. However, Saturn has the lowest density of all the planets. Saturn spins faster than any other planet except Jupiter, completing a rotation roughly every 10-and-a-half hours. This rapid spinning causes Saturn to bulge at its equator and flatten at its poles — the planet is13,000 kilometers wider at its equator than between the poles. The only way Saturn is similar to earth is because Earth’s axis is tilted at an angle of 23.4°, Saturn’s tilt is 26.7°. This actually gives Saturn seasons, just like Earth!

Saturn's atmosphere is 96.3 percent molecular hydrogen, and 3.25 percent helium. in comparison to Jupiter Saturn is poor in helium. Saturn experiences high velocity winds in its atmosphere. Because of Saturn's lower mass and gravity in comapison to Jupiter, it has more haze. Its Interior, like Jupiter, Saturn is largely liquid. The magnetic field of Saturn is weaker, yet similar to Jupiter's. However, it is 578 times more powerful than Earth's. Its magnetic feild is caused by electrical currents in liquid metallic hydrogen deep in the interior.

Saturn's MoonsTitan is Saturn's largest moon out of 53 moon and has a thick, hazy atmosphere (left). The Huygens probe entered Titan's atmosphere on 14 January 2005, landed on rocky, muddy terrain and successfully sent back the first images from the surface of a moon beyond Earth's. The orbiter also found that Enceladus had geysers erupting from its surface to for one of Saturn's rings (right) .

Galileo Galilei was the first to see Saturn's rings in 1610. Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens, who had a more powerful telescope, saw that Saturn does have a thin, flat ring.

Saturn actually has many rings made of billions of particles of ice and rock. The largest ring spans up to 200 times the diameter of the planet. The rings are believe to be debris left over from comets, asteroids or shattered moons. The rings extend thousands of miles from the planet, but the main rings are only about 30 feet thick. The Cassini-Huygens spacecraft revealed vertical formations in some of the rings, with particles piling up in bumps and ridges more than 3 kilometers high. The rings of Saturn are within the distance at which a large moon would experience extreme enough tidal stretching to be torn apart. This distance is called the Roche limit. A shepherd satellite is defined as a moon that orbits near the edge of a planetary ring, stabilizing the ring's particles through gravitational pull and confing the ring to be a sharply defined band.

Janus and Epimetheus are two co-orbital moons of Saturn that appear as if they are going to collide, but instead switch orbits approximately every four years.


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