What Is Saturn?

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 18,457
    Science expert Emerald Robinson explains information about the ringed planet Saturn.

    Emerald Robinson: Hi I'm Emerald Robinson. In this "What Is" video we're going to take a closer look at Saturn - the ringed jewel of our Solar System.

    Discovered by Galileo in 1610, Saturn is named after the Roman god of agriculture. It is the sixth planet from the sun, and like the other outer planets, is a giant ball of swirling gas.

    Saturn's composition is approximately 96% hydrogen and 3% helium. This makes it the only planet in our solar system that is less dense than water. Adorned with thousands of beautiful ringlets, Saturn is our solar system's second largest planet next to Jupiter. It's nearly 75,000 miles in diameter, and over 235,000 miles in circumference, big enough to hold more than 760 Earths.

    Saturn has 62 confirmed moons, 53 of which are named. Its largest Moon, Titan, is the only moon in the solar system to have its own substantial atmosphere. Saturn also has hundreds of very small objects, or moonlets, dotting its numerous rings.

    In spite of its massive size, Saturn's gravity is only slightly greater than that of Earth's. If you weighed 100 lbs. on Earth, you would weigh 107 lbs. on Saturn, that is, if you could stand on gas.

    Like the other planets, Saturn has an elliptical orbit, and on average is 891 million miles from the Sun. Saturn takes 30 Earth years to orbit around the Sun, and a day on Saturn takes about 10.

    5 Earth hours.

    Although all of the outer planets have rings, Saturn's are the only ones that are easily visible. Saturn's rings, which rotate around the planet, are made mostly from ice particles with a small amount of dust, rock and other impurities. Its beautiful rings are nearly 170,000 miles wide but are amazingly thin, estimated to range from as little as 30 feet, to slightly more than half a mile thick.

    Scientists speculate that Saturn's rings will either spread out into space or get sucked into the planet by the pull of its gravity, sometime in next 50 million years. Until then Saturn will continue to be the dazzling gem of our solar system.