"... he made the stars also." Genesis 1:16
- When people peer into a telescope and see Saturn for the first time, the typical response is "Wow!"
- All the other planets appear as simple disks with a few surface features, but Saturn's rich system of rings makes it look more like a piece of celestial jewelry.
- Saturn's rings are composed of trillions of tiny moonlets, particles of water ice. These rings orbit Saturn, giving it a stunning, three-dimensional appearance quite different from any other planet.
- Saturn is a slightly smaller version of Jupiter in most respects.
- Saturn is made of hydrogen and helium gas and trace amounts of molecules such as the methane and ammonia that give rise to its yellow color.
- As with Jupiter, Saturn's colorful clouds are stretched into belts (dark-colored) and zones (light-colored). However, Saturn's belts and zones are more subtle than Jupiter's.
- Nine times the size of Earth in diameter, Saturn has the lowest density of any planet. Amazingly, Saturn would actually float in water!
- At a distance of 890 million miles from the sun, Saturn takes 29.5 years to complete just one orbit.
- Powerful storms large enough to be seen from Earth occasionally develop in Saturn's atmosphere and appear as bright regions within the belts and zones.
- Even though Jupiter, Uranus, and Neptune all have their own system of rings, Saturn's are by far the most impressive.
- The main rings span 170,000 miles across but are less than one mile thick. For comparison, this is over one thousand times thinner than the relative thickness of a DVD.
- The rings orbit in the plane of Saturn's equator.
- The Saturn's rotation axis is tilted 26.7 degrees in relation to the planetary orbital plane. Without this tilt, the rings would always appear edge-on, making them virtually invisible.
- Saturn has several different systems of rings that differ in brightness.
- The three major rings that are visible with a modest telescope are labeled the A-, B-, and C-rings.
- A is the outermost of these rings. B is in the middle and is the brightest. The C-ring is the faintest and is difficult to see except in a high-quality telescope.
- Pioneer 11 first detected the F-ring, a narrow filament of icy particles that orbits just beyond the A-ring and contains multiple threads twisted like the strands of a rope.
- At latest count, Saturn has 62 known moons - not including the trillions of tiny moonlets comprising its rings. Most of these moons are tiny - just a few miles across.
- Only 13 of Saturn's moons are larger than 50 miles in diameter, and only five are larger than 500 miles in diameter.
- Titan is the largest, easily seen in a small telescope or good binoculars as a tiny orange star next to Saturn. At 3,200 miles in diameter, Titan is the second-largest moon in the solar system (behind Jupiter's Ganymede), about 48 percent larger than Earth's moon. Like Ganymede, Titan is larger than the planet Mercury and would be classified as a planet if it orbited the sun directly.
- Titan is the only known moon with a thick atmosphere. This atmosphere is composed primarily of nitrogen but has traces of methane and other hydrocarbons. It is these trace molecules that give rise to Titan's orange color and make it nearly impossible to see any surface features.
- The existence of methane in Titan's atmosphere is something of a mystery for those who believe that this moon is billions of years old; solar ultraviolet radiation from the sun is expected to break down methane in a timescale of only a few tens of millions of years.
- Another of Saturn's moons, Mimas, orbits close to the planet and is easy to recognize because it has an enormous crater on one side. This crater, named Herschel, is about one-third the diameter of Mimas and gives the moon a very strange appearance.
- Saturn's moon Enceladus is white as snow and has only small craters.
- The Cassini spacecraft discovered plumes of icy material being ejected like geysers near this little moon's south pole, indicating that Enceladus has significant internal heat. This is problematic for those who believe that the solar system is billions of years old because if the moon were really that old, that heat should have escaped long ago.
- Saturn is the only planet known to have Trojan moons - moons that share a common orbit at precisely the same speed and thus never collide.
- What an amazing solar system the Lord has created! Almost every day some new scientific discovery gives us a little glimpse into the mind of God, and Saturn is certainly a wonderful example of His creative genius!
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