We’ve been up close and personal with Saturn for 13 years now, thanks to the Cassini mission.
From a tour of Saturn’s many enthralling moons to an incredible view of Earth through its rings, the planet continues to captivate the imagination. This week, here are 10 things you need to know about our fascinating ringed neighbor.
1. Strange Sighting
When Galileo Galilei was observing Saturn in the 1600s, he noticed strange objects on each side of the planet. He drew in his notes a triple-bodied planet system with ears. These “ears” were later discovered to be the rings of Saturn.
2. Solar System Status
Saturn orbits our sun and is the sixth planet from the sun at an average distance of about 886 million miles or 9.5 AU.
3. Short Days
Time flies when you’re on Saturn. One day on Saturn takes just 10.7 hours (the time it takes for Saturn to rotate or spin once). The planet makes a complete orbit around the sun (a year in Saturnian time) in 29 Earth years, or 10,756 Earth days. saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/news/2955/measuring-a-day
4. No Shoes Necessary
That’s because you can’t stand on Saturn—it’s a gas-giant planet and doesn’t have a solid surface. But you might want a jacket. The planet’s temperatures can dip to -220 degrees F.
5. Few visitors
Only a handful of missions have made their way to Saturn: Pioneer 11, Voyager 1 and 2, and Cassini-Huygens, which is there now. Since 2004, Cassini has been exploring Saturn and its moons and rings—but will complete its journey on Sept. 15, 2017.
6. Saturn’s Close-Up
This month is a great time to observe Saturn from Earth. Check out June’s “What’s Up?” video for a how-to guide.
7. Daring Dives
Saturn’s spectacular ring system is made up of seven rings with several gaps and divisions between them. From now until September, the Cassini spacecraft is performing a set of daring dives every week between the planet and the rings. No other mission has ever explored this unique region before, and what we learn from these final orbits will help us understand of how giant planets—and planetary systems everywhere—form and evolve.
8. Many, Many Moons
Saturn has a total of 62 moons: 53 known moons, with an additional nine moons awaiting confirmation.
9. Curious Shapes
Saturn’s moon Atlas looks like a flying saucer. See for yourself.
10. Would You Live on a Moon?
Saturn can’t support life as we know it, but some of its moons have conditions that might support life. Ocean worlds could be the answer to life in space and two of Saturn’s moons—Titan and Enceladus—are on that list.
Want to learn more? Read our full list of the 10 things to know this week about the solar system HERE.
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