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Saturn
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{{About|the planet}}{{pp-semi-indef}}{{pp-move-indef}}{{Short description|Sixth planet from the Sun in the Solar System}}{{Use American English|date=September 2017}}{{Use dmy dates|date=August 2019}}







factoids
Saturn (mythology)>Saturn| adjectives = Saturnian, Cronian| orbit_ref = | epoch = J2000.01514.50AUabbr=unit}}1352.55AUabbr=unit}}1433.53AUabbr=unit}}0.0565}}| period =
{{plainlist |
  • {{val|29.4571|u=yr}}
  • {{val|fmt=commas|10759.22|u=days}}
  • {{val|fmt=commas|24491.07}} Saturnian solar days


}}| synodic_period = 378.09 days
9.68mi/sabbr=unit}}317.020|u=°}}| inclination =
{{plainlist |


}}
113.665|u=°}}339.392|u=°}}moons of Saturn>82 with formal designations; innumerable additional moonlets.| physical_ref = 58232miabbr=unit}}| equatorial_radius =
{hide}plainlist |
  • {{convert|60268|km|mi|0|abbr=unit{edih}Refers to the level of 1 bar atmospheric pressure
  • {{val|9.449}} Earths


}}| polar_radius =
{hide}plainlist |
  • {{convert|54364|km|mi|0|abbr=unit{edih}
  • {{val|8.552|u=Earths}}


}}
0.09796}}| surface_area =
{{plainlist |
  • {{convert|4.27e10|km2|sqmi|abbr=unit}}
  • {{val|83.703|u=Earths}}


}}| volume =
{{plainlist |
  • {{convert|8.2713e14|km3|cumi|abbr=unit}}
  • {{val|763.59|u=Earths}}


}}| mass =
{{plainlist |
  • {{val|5.6834e26|u=kg}}
  • {{val|95.159|u=Earths}}


}}
0.687lk=on(less than water)}}| surface_grav =
{{plainlist |
  • {{convert|10.44|m/s2|lk=on|abbr=unit}}
  • 1.065 g


}}
0.22LAST2= HELLEDLAST3= NETTLEMANNLAST4= STEVENSONLAST5= MARLEYLAST6= HUBBARDLAST7= IESSEDITOR1= BAINES, K.H.EDITOR3= KRUPP, N.TITLE= SATURN IN THE 21ST CENTURYURL= HTTPS://BOOKS.GOOGLE.COM/BOOKS?ID=P358DWAAQBAJ&PG=PA51 DATE=6 DECEMBER 2018ISBN= 978-1-108-68393-7, 35.5mi/s|abbr=unit}}1038}} {{+-52}}19}}}} MCCARTNEY >FIRST1=GRETCHEN FIRST2=JOANNA URL=HTTPS://WWW.JPL.NASA.GOV/NEWS/NEWS.PHP?FEATURE=731 WORK=NASA TITLE=CASSINI RING SEISMOLOGY AS A PROBE OF SATURN'S INTERIOR. I. RIGID ROTATION JOURNAL=THE ASTROPHYSICAL JOURNAL PAGES=1 DOI=10.3847/1538-4357/AAF798, 1805.10286, 9.87mi/s km/h|abbr=unit}}(to orbit)}}221}}| declination = 83.537°| albedo =
{{plainlist |


}}
bar (unit)>bar134Clk=on}}bar (unit)>bar84Clk=on}}| magnitude = −0.55 to +1.17| angular_size = 14.5″ to 20.1″ (excludes rings)| atmosphere_ref = LAST=KNECHT URL=HTTP://WWW.TP.UMU.SE/SPACE/PROJ_05/ROBIN.K.PDF ARCHIVE-URL=HTTPS://WEB.ARCHIVE.ORG/WEB/20171014234631/HTTP://WWW.TP.UMU.SE/SPACE/PROJ_05/ROBIN.K.PDF URL-STATUS=DEAD, 59.5mi|abbr=unit}}| atmosphere_composition = by volume:{{aligned table|cols=296.3u=%}} hydrogen ({{chem2>H2}})3.25u=%}} helium ({{chem2>He}})0.45u=%}} methane ({{chem2>CH4}})0.0125u=%}} ammonia ({{chem2>NH3}})0.0110u=%}} |hydrogen deuteride (HD)0.0007u=%ethane ({{chem2|C2H6}})}}Ices: }}Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun and the second-largest in the Solar System, after Jupiter. It is a gas giant with an average radius about nine times that of Earth.WEB,weblink Characteristics of Saturn, 5 July 2010, Brainerd, Jerome James, 24 November 2004, The Astrophysics Spectator,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20111001102834weblink">weblink 1 October 2011, dead, WEB,weblink General Information About Saturn, Scienceray, 28 July 2011, 17 August 2011,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20111007220627weblink">weblink 7 October 2011, dead, It has only one-eighth the average density of Earth; however, with its larger volume, Saturn is over 95 times more massive.WEB,weblink Solar System Planets Compared to Earth, 5 July 2010, Brainerd, Jerome James, 6 October 2004, The Astrophysics Spectator,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20111001102843weblink">weblink 1 October 2011, dead, WEB,weblink NASA – Saturn, 21 July 2011, Dunbar, Brian, 29 November 2007, NASA,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20110929073208weblink">weblink 29 September 2011, dead, Saturn is named after the Roman god of wealth and agriculture; its astronomical symbol (♄) represents the god's sickle.Saturn's interior is most likely composed of a core of iron–nickel and rock (silicon and oxygen compounds). This core is surrounded by a deep layer of metallic hydrogen, an intermediate layer of liquid hydrogen and liquid helium, and finally a gaseous outer layer. Saturn has a pale yellow hue due to ammonia crystals in its upper atmosphere. An electrical current within the metallic hydrogen layer is thought to give rise to Saturn's planetary magnetic field, which is weaker than Earth's, but has a magnetic moment 580 times that of Earth due to Saturn's larger size. Saturn's magnetic field strength is around one-twentieth of Jupiter's. The outer atmosphere is generally bland and lacking in contrast, although long-lived features can appear. Wind speeds on Saturn can reach {{convert|1800|km/h|mph m/s|abbr=on}}, higher than on Jupiter, but not as high as those on Neptune.NEWS, Science (TV network), Science Channel, The Planets ('Giants'), 8 June 2004, In January 2019, astronomers reported that a day on the planet Saturn has been determined to be{{RA|10|33|38}} {{+-|{{RA||1|52}}|{{RA||1|19}}}} , based on studies of the planet's C Ring.The planet's most famous feature is its prominent ring system that is composed mostly of ice particles, with a smaller amount of rocky debris and dust. At least 82 moonsWEB,weblink Saturn overtakes Jupiter as planet with most moons, Rincon, Paul, 7 October 2019, BBC News, 11 October 2019,
are known to orbit Saturn, of which 53 are officially named. This does not include the hundreds of moonlets in the rings. Titan, Saturn's largest moon, and the second-largest in the Solar System, is larger than the planet Mercury, although less massive, and is the only moon in the Solar System to have a substantial atmosphere.WEB,weblink The Story of Saturn, 7 July 2007, Munsell, Kirk, 6 April 2005, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory; California Institute of Technology,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20080816074342weblink">weblink 16 August 2008, dead,
{{TOC limit|3}}

Physical characteristics

(File:Saturn, Earth size comparison2.jpg|thumb|left|Composite image comparing the sizes of Saturn and Earth)Saturn is a gas giant because it is predominantly composed of hydrogen and helium. It lacks a definite surface, though it may have a solid core. Saturn's rotation causes it to have the shape of an oblate spheroid; that is, it is flattened at the poles and bulges at its equator. Its equatorial and polar radii differ by almost 10%: 60,268 km versus 54,364 km. Jupiter, Uranus, and Neptune, the other giant planets in the Solar System, are also oblate but to a lesser extent. The combination of the bulge and rotation rate means that the effective surface gravity along the equator, {{Val|8.96|u=m/s2}}, is 74% that at the poles and is lower than the surface gravity of Earth. However, the equatorial escape velocity of nearly {{Val|36|u=km/s}} is much higher than that for Earth.BOOK,weblink Outer Solar System: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and the Dwarf Planets, The Rosen Publishing Group, Erik, Gregersen, 119, 2010, 978-1615300143, Saturn is the only planet of the Solar System that is less dense than water—about 30% less. Although Saturn's core is considerably denser than water, the average specific density of the planet is {{val|0.69|u=g/cm3}} due to the atmosphere. Jupiter has 318 times Earth's mass, and Saturn is 95 times Earth's mass. Together, Jupiter and Saturn hold 92% of the total planetary mass in the Solar System.

Internal structure

(File:Saturn diagram.svg|thumb|left|Diagram of Saturn, to scale)Despite consisting mostly of hydrogen and helium, most of Saturn's mass is not in the gas phase, because hydrogen becomes a non-ideal liquid when the density is above {{val|0.01|u=g/cm3}}, which is reached at a radius containing 99.9% of Saturn's mass. The temperature, pressure, and density inside Saturn all rise steadily toward the core, which causes hydrogen to be a metal in the deeper layers.Standard planetary models suggest that the interior of Saturn is similar to that of Jupiter, having a small rocky core surrounded by hydrogen and helium with trace amounts of various volatiles. This core is similar in composition to Earth, but more dense. Examination of Saturn's gravitational moment, in combination with physical models of the interior, has allowed constraints to be placed on the mass of Saturn's core. In 2004, scientists estimated that the core must be 9–22 times the mass of Earth, which corresponds to a diameter of about 25,000 km.WEB,weblink Saturn, BBC, 19 July 2011, 2000,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20110101024556weblink">weblink 1 January 2011, live, This is surrounded by a thicker liquid metallic hydrogen layer, followed by a liquid layer of helium-saturated molecular hydrogen that gradually transitions to a gas with increasing altitude. The outermost layer spans 1,000 km and consists of gas.WEB,weblink Structure of Saturn's Interior, Windows to the Universe, 19 July 2011,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20110917140427weblink">weblink 17 September 2011, live, Saturn has a hot interior, reaching 11,700 Â°C at its core, and it radiates 2.5 times more energy into space than it receives from the Sun. Jupiter's thermal energy is generated by the Kelvin–Helmholtz mechanism of slow gravitational compression, but such a process alone may not be sufficient to explain heat production for Saturn, because it is less massive. An alternative or additional mechanism may be generation of heat through the "raining out" of droplets of helium deep in Saturn's interior. As the droplets descend through the lower-density hydrogen, the process releases heat by friction and leaves Saturn's outer layers depleted of helium. These descending droplets may have accumulated into a helium shell surrounding the core. Rainfalls of diamonds have been suggested to occur within Saturn, as well as in JupiterNEWS, Kramer, Miriam, Diamond Rain May Fill Skies of Jupiter and Saturn,weblink 9 October 2013, Space.com, 27 August 2017, and ice giants Uranus and Neptune.NEWS, Kaplan, Sarah, It rains solid diamonds on Uranus and Neptune,weblink 25 August 2017, The Washington Post, 27 August 2017,

Atmosphere

File:PIA18354-Saturn-MethaneBands-20150906.jpg|thumb|left|MethaneMethaneThe outer atmosphere of Saturn contains 96.3% molecular hydrogen and 3.25% helium by volume.WEB,weblink Saturn, Universe Guide, 29 March 2009, The proportion of helium is significantly deficient compared to the abundance of this element in the Sun. The quantity of elements heavier than helium (metallicity) is not known precisely, but the proportions are assumed to match the primordial abundances from the formation of the Solar System. The total mass of these heavier elements is estimated to be 19–31 times the mass of the Earth, with a significant fraction located in Saturn's core region.Trace amounts of ammonia, acetylene, ethane, propane, phosphine and methane have been detected in Saturn's atmosphere. The upper clouds are composed of ammonia crystals, while the lower level clouds appear to consist of either ammonium hydrosulfide ({{chem2|NH4SH}}) or water. Ultraviolet radiation from the Sun causes methane photolysis in the upper atmosphere, leading to a series of hydrocarbon chemical reactions with the resulting products being carried downward by eddies and diffusion. This photochemical cycle is modulated by Saturn's annual seasonal cycle.

Cloud layers

(File:Saturn Storm.jpg|thumb|left|A global storm girdles the planet in 2011. The head of the storm (bright area) passes the tail circling around the left limb.)Saturn's atmosphere exhibits a banded pattern similar to Jupiter's, but Saturn's bands are much fainter and are much wider near the equator. The nomenclature used to describe these bands is the same as on Jupiter. Saturn's finer cloud patterns were not observed until the flybys of the Voyager spacecraft during the 1980s. Since then, Earth-based telescopy has improved to the point where regular observations can be made.The composition of the clouds varies with depth and increasing pressure. In the upper cloud layers, with the temperature in the range 100–160 K and pressures extending between 0.5–2 bar, the clouds consist of ammonia ice. Water ice clouds begin at a level where the pressure is about 2.5 bar and extend down to 9.5 bar, where temperatures range from 185–270 K. Intermixed in this layer is a band of ammonium hydrosulfide ice, lying in the pressure range 3–6 bar with temperatures of 190–235 K. Finally, the lower layers, where pressures are between 10–20 bar and temperatures are 270–330 K, contains a region of water droplets with ammonia in aqueous solution.Saturn's usually bland atmosphere occasionally exhibits long-lived ovals and other features common on Jupiter. In 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope imaged an enormous white cloud near Saturn's equator that was not present during the Voyager encounters, and in 1994 another smaller storm was observed. The 1990 storm was an example of a Great White Spot, a unique but short-lived phenomenon that occurs once every Saturnian year, roughly every 30 Earth years, around the time of the northern hemisphere's summer solstice. Previous Great White Spots were observed in 1876, 1903, 1933 and 1960, with the 1933 storm being the most famous. If the periodicity is maintained, another storm will occur in about 2020.BOOK, Patrick Moore, Moore, Patrick, 1993 Yearbook of Astronomy, 1993 Yearbook of Astronomy, London, W.W. Norton & Company, 1992, Mark, Kidger, The 1990 Great White Spot of Saturn, 176–215, 1992ybas.conf.....M, The winds on Saturn are the second fastest among the Solar System's planets, after Neptune's. Voyager data indicate peak easterly winds of {{convert|500|m/s|km/h|abbr=on}}.WEB, Voyager Saturn Science Summary,weblink Calvin J., Hamilton, 5 July 2007, 1997, Solarviews,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20110926211656weblink">weblink 26 September 2011, live, In images from the Cassini spacecraft during 2007, Saturn's northern hemisphere displayed a bright blue hue, similar to Uranus. The color was most likely caused by Rayleigh scattering.WEB,weblink Saturn's Strange Hexagon, 6 July 2007, 27 March 2007, Watanabe, Susan, NASA,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20100116155833weblink">weblink 16 January 2010, live, Thermography has shown that Saturn's south pole has a warm polar vortex, the only known example of such a phenomenon in the Solar System.WEB,weblink Warm Polar Vortex on Saturn, 2007, Merrillville Community Planetarium, 25 July 2007,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20110921212018weblink">weblink 21 September 2011, live, Whereas temperatures on Saturn are normally −185 Â°C, temperatures on the vortex often reach as high as −122 Â°C, suspected to be the warmest spot on Saturn.

North pole hexagonal cloud pattern

{{multiple image |align=right |direction=horizontal |total_width=400
|image1=Rotatingsaturnhexagon.gif |caption1=Saturn's north pole (IR animation)
|image2=Looking saturn in the eye.jpg |caption2=Saturn's south pole
}}A persisting hexagonal wave pattern around the north polar vortex in the atmosphere at about 78°N was first noted in the Voyager images.JOURNAL, 1988Icar...76..335G, 10.1016/0019-1035(88)90075-9, A hexagonal feature around Saturn's North Pole, 1988, 335, Godfrey, D. A., 76, Icarus, 2, JOURNAL, Ground-based observations of Saturn's north polar SPOT and hexagon, P., Laques, F., Colas, J., Lecacheux, Science, 1, A., Sanchez-Lavega, 260, 5106, 1993, 17838249, 10.1126/science.260.5106.329, 1993Sci...260..329S, 329–32, NEWS, Overbye, Dennis, Dennis Overbye, Storm Chasing on Saturn,weblink 6 August 2014, New York Times, 6 August 2014, The sides of the hexagon are each about {{Convert|13800|km|mi|-2|abbr=on}} long, which is longer than the diameter of the Earth.NEWS,weblink New images show Saturn's weird hexagon cloud, NBC News, 12 December 2009, 29 September 2011, The entire structure rotates with a period of {{nowrap|10h 39m 24s}} (the same period as that of the planet's radio emissions) which is assumed to be equal to the period of rotation of Saturn's interior. The hexagonal feature does not shift in longitude like the other clouds in the visible atmosphere. The pattern's origin is a matter of much speculation. Most scientists think it is a standing wave pattern in the atmosphere. Polygonal shapes have been replicated in the laboratory through differential rotation of fluids.JOURNAL, 10.1038/news060515-17, Ball, Philip, Geometric whirlpools revealed, Nature (journal), Nature, 19 May 2006, Bizarre geometric shapes that appear at the center of swirling vortices in planetary atmospheres might be explained by a simple experiment with a bucket of water but correlating this to Saturn's pattern is by no means certain.JOURNAL, 10.1016/j.icarus.2009.10.022, 1, Aguiar, Ana C. Barbosa, Read, Peter L., Wordsworth, Robin D, A laboratory model of Saturn's North Polar Hexagon, 206, 2, April 2010, 755–763, Salter, Tara, Hiro Yamazaki, Y., Icarus, 2010Icar..206..755B, Laboratory experiment of spinning disks in a liquid solution forms vortices around a stable hexagonal pattern similar to that of Saturn's.

South pole vortex

HST imaging of the south polar region indicates the presence of a jet stream, but no strong polar vortex nor any hexagonal standing wave.JOURNAL, 1, Sánchez-Lavega, A., Pérez-Hoyos, S., French, R. G.,weblink Hubble Space Telescope Observations of the Atmospheric Dynamics in Saturn's South Pole from 1997 to 2002, Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 34, 857, 6 July 2007, 8 October 2002, 2002DPS....34.1307S, NASA reported in November 2006 that Cassini had observed a "hurricane-like" storm locked to the south pole that had a clearly defined eyewall.WEB,weblink NASA catalog page for image PIA09187, 23 May 2007, NASA Planetary Photojournal,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20111109044235weblink">weblink 9 November 2011, live, NEWS,weblink Huge 'hurricane' rages on Saturn, BBC News, 10 November 2006, 29 September 2011,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20120803115422weblink">weblink 3 August 2012, live, Eyewall clouds had not previously been seen on any planet other than Earth. For example, images from the Galileo spacecraft did not show an eyewall in the Great Red Spot of Jupiter.WEB,weblink NASA Sees into the Eye of a Monster Storm on Saturn, NASA, 9 November 2006, 20 November 2006,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20080507154317weblink">weblink 7 May 2008, dead, The south pole storm may have been present for billions of years. This vortex is comparable to the size of Earth, and it has winds of 550 km/h.APOD, A Hurricane Over the South Pole of Saturn, 13 November 2006, 1 May 2013,

Other features

Cassini observed a series of cloud features nicknamed "String of Pearls" found in northern latitudes. These features are cloud clearings that reside in deeper cloud layers.PRESS RELEASE, Cassini Image Shows Saturn Draped in a String of Pearls,weblink Carolina Martinez, NASA, 10 November 2006, 3 March 2013,

Magnetosphere

{{Multiple image |align=right |direction=horizontal |total_width=400
|image1=Saturn's double aurorae (captured by the Hubble Space Telescope).jpg |caption1=Polar aurorae on Saturn
|image2=Hubble sees a flickering light display on Saturn.jpg |caption2=Auroral lights at Saturn's north poleNEWS, Hubble sees a flickering light display on Saturn,weblink 20 May 2014, ESA/Hubble Picture of the Week,
}}(File:Saturn sound2.ogg|thumb|Radio emissions detected by Cassini)Saturn has an intrinsic magnetic field that has a simple, symmetric shape – a magnetic dipole. Its strength at the equator – 0.2 gauss (20 ÂµT) – is approximately one twentieth of that of the field around Jupiter and slightly weaker than Earth's magnetic field. As a result, Saturn's magnetosphere is much smaller than Jupiter's.WEB,weblink Saturn: Atmosphere and Magnetosphere, Thinkquest Internet Challenge, 15 July 2007, McDermott, Matthew, 2000,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20111020053039weblink">weblink 20 October 2011, live, When Voyager 2 entered the magnetosphere, the solar wind pressure was high and the magnetosphere extended only 19 Saturn radii, or 1.1 million km (712,000 mi),WEB,weblink Voyager – Saturn's Magnetosphere, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 18 October 2010, 19 July 2011,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20120319151942weblink">weblink 19 March 2012, live, although it enlarged within several hours, and remained so for about three days. Most probably, the magnetic field is generated similarly to that of Jupiter – by currents in the liquid metallic-hydrogen layer called a metallic-hydrogen dynamo. This magnetosphere is efficient at deflecting the solar wind particles from the Sun. The moon Titan orbits within the outer part of Saturn's magnetosphere and contributes plasma from the ionized particles in Titan's outer atmosphere.JOURNAL, 1, Russell, C. T., Luhmann, J. G., 1997,weblink Saturn: Magnetic Field and Magnetosphere, Science, 207, 4429, 407, 29 April 2007,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20110927165242weblink">weblink 27 September 2011, live, 1980Sci...207..407S, 10.1126/science.207.4429.407, Saturn's magnetosphere, like Earth's, produces aurorae.WEB,weblink Saturn Magnetosphere Overview, Russell, Randy, Windows to the Universe, 3 June 2003, 19 July 2011,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20110906031014weblink">weblink 6 September 2011, live,

Orbit and rotation

(File:PIA20517-Saturn&Rings-CassiniSpacecraftScene-20161028.jpg|thumb|left|Saturn and rings as viewed by the Cassini spacecraft (28 October 2016))The average distance between Saturn and the Sun is over 1.4 billion kilometers (9 AU). With an average orbital speed of 9.68 km/s, it takes Saturn 10,759 Earth days (or about {{frac|29|1|2}} years) to finish one revolution around the Sun. As a consequence, it forms a near 5:2 mean-motion resonance with Jupiter.JOURNAL, Modeling the 5 : 2 Mean-Motion Resonance in the Jupiter-Saturn Planetary System, Michtchenko, T. A., Ferraz-Mello, S., Icarus, 149, 2, 357–374, February 2001, 10.1006/icar.2000.6539, 2001Icar..149..357M, The elliptical orbit of Saturn is inclined 2.48° relative to the orbital plane of the Earth. The perihelion and aphelion distances are, respectively, 9.195 and 9.957 AU, on average.Jean Meeus, Astronomical Algorithms (Richmond, VA: Willmann-Bell, 1998). Average of the nine extremes on p 273. All are within 0.02 AU of the averages. The visible features on Saturn rotate at different rates depending on latitude and multiple rotation periods have been assigned to various regions (as in Jupiter's case).Astronomers use three different systems for specifying the rotation rate of Saturn. System I has a period of 10 hr 14 min 00 sec (844.3°/d) and encompasses the Equatorial Zone, the South Equatorial Belt and the North Equatorial Belt. The polar regions are considered to have rotation rates similar to System I. All other Saturnian latitudes, excluding the north and south polar regions, are indicated as System II and have been assigned a rotation period of 10 hr 38 min 25.4 sec (810.76°/d). System III refers to Saturn's internal rotation rate. Based on radio emissions from the planet detected by Voyager 1 and Voyager 2,JOURNAL, 10.1126/science.209.4462.1238, 17811197, 1980Sci...209.1238K, Voyager Detection of Nonthermal Radio Emission from Saturn, Science, 209, 4462, 1238–40, Kaiser, M. L., Desch, M. D., Warwick, J. W., Pearce, J. B., 1980, 2060/19800013712, System III has a rotation period of 10 hr 39 min 22.4 sec (810.8°/d). System III has largely superseded System II.A precise value for the rotation period of the interior remains elusive. While approaching Saturn in 2004, Cassini found that the radio rotation period of Saturn had increased appreciably, to approximately 10 hr 45 min 45 sec (± 36 sec).WEB,weblink Scientists Find That Saturn's Rotation Period is a Puzzle, 28 June 2004, NASA, 22 March 2007,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20110729155336weblink">weblink 29 July 2011, live, The latest estimate of Saturn's rotation (as an indicated rotation rate for Saturn as a whole) based on a compilation of various measurements from the Cassini, Voyager and Pioneer probes was reported in September 2007 is 10 hr 32 min 35 sec.In March 2007, it was found that the variation of radio emissions from the planet did not match Saturn's rotation rate. This variance may be caused by geyser activity on Saturn's moon Enceladus. The water vapor emitted into Saturn's orbit by this activity becomes charged and creates a drag upon Saturn's magnetic field, slowing its rotation slightly relative to the rotation of the planet.PRESS RELEASE,weblink Enceladus Geysers Mask the Length of Saturn's Day, 22 March 2007, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 22 March 2007, dead,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20081207134416weblink">weblink 7 December 2008, An apparent oddity for Saturn is that it does not have any known trojan asteroids. These are minor planets that orbit the Sun at the stable Lagrangian points, designated L4 and L5, located at 60° angles to the planet along its orbit. Trojan asteroids have been discovered for Mars, Jupiter, Uranus, and Neptune. Orbital resonance mechanisms, including secular resonance, are believed to be the cause of the missing Saturnian trojans.JOURNAL, Saturn Trojans: a dynamical point of view, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 1, Hou, X. Y., Scheeres, D. J., Liu, L., 437, 2, 1420–1433, January 2014, 10.1093/mnras/stt1974, 2014MNRAS.437.1420H,

Natural satellites

File:Saturn System Montage - GPN-2000-000439.jpg|thumb|A montage of Saturn and its principal moons (Dione, Tethys, Mimas, Enceladus, Rhea and Titan; Iapetus not shown). This famous image was created from photographs taken in November 1980 by the Voyager 1Voyager 1Saturn has 82 known moons, 53 of which have formal names.WEB, Solar System Dynamics – Planetary Satellite Discovery Circumstances,weblink NASA, 26 February 2016, 9 March 2015, NEWS,weblink Wall, Mike, Saturn's 'Ice Queen' Moon Helene Shimmers in New Photo, Space.com, 21 June 2011, 19 July 2011,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20110902114937weblink">weblink 2 September 2011, live, In addition, there is evidence of dozens to hundreds of moonlets with diameters of 40–500 meters in Saturn's rings,JOURNAL, 0710.4547, Tiscareno, Matthew, The population of propellers in Saturn's A Ring, 17 July 2013, 10.1088/0004-6256/135/3/1083, 135, 3, The Astronomical Journal, 1083–1091, 2008AJ....135.1083T, which are not considered to be true moons. Titan, the largest moon, comprises more than 90% of the mass in orbit around Saturn, including the rings. Saturn's second-largest moon, Rhea, may have a tenuous ring system of its own, along with a tenuous atmosphere.WEB,weblink Thin air: Oxygen atmosphere found on Saturn's moon Rhea, ScienceDaily, NASA, 30 November 2010, 23 July 2011,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20111108215855weblink">weblink 8 November 2011, live, (File:PIA18078-PossibleBeginning-NewMoonOfPlanetSaturn-20130415.jpg|thumb|left|Possible beginning of a new moon (white dot) of Saturn (image taken by Cassini on 15 April 2013))Many of the other moons are small: 34 are less than 10 km in diameter and another 14 between 10 and 50 km in diameter.WEB,weblink Saturn's Known Satellites, Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, 22 June 2010,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20110926210000weblink">weblink 26 September 2011, dead, Traditionally, most of Saturn's moons have been named after Titans of Greek mythology. Titan is the only satellite in the Solar System with a major atmosphere,WEB,weblink Cassini Finds Hydrocarbon Rains May Fill Titan Lakes, ScienceDaily, 30 January 2009, 19 July 2011,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20111109045639weblink">weblink 9 November 2011, live, WEB,weblink Voyager – Titan, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 18 October 2010, 19 July 2011,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20111026090736weblink">weblink 26 October 2011, live, in which a complex organic chemistry occurs. It is the only satellite with hydrocarbon lakes.NEWS,weblink Evidence of hydrocarbon lakes on Titan, NBC News, Associated Press, 25 July 2006, 19 July 2011, NEWS,weblink Hydrocarbon lake finally confirmed on Titan, Cosmos (magazine), Cosmos Magazine, 31 July 2008, 19 July 2011,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20111101134216weblink">weblink 1 November 2011, dead, On 6 June 2013, scientists at the IAA-CSIC reported the detection of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the upper atmosphere of Titan, a possible precursor for life.NEWS, López-Puertas, Manuel,weblink PAH's in Titan's Upper Atmosphere, 6 June 2013, Spanish National Research Council, CSIC, 6 June 2013, On 23 June 2014, NASA claimed to have strong evidence that nitrogen in the atmosphere of Titan came from materials in the Oort cloud, associated with comets, and not from the materials that formed Saturn in earlier times.WEB, 1, Dyches, Preston, Clavin, Clavin, Titan's Building Blocks Might Pre-date Saturn,weblink 23 June 2014, NASA, 24 June 2014, Saturn's moon Enceladus, which seems similar in chemical makeup to comets,WEB, Battersby, Stephen, Saturn's moon Enceladus surprisingly comet-like,weblink 26 March 2008, New Scientist, 16 April 2015, has often been regarded as a potential habitat for microbial life.WEB,weblink Could There Be Life On Saturn's Moon Enceladus?, ScienceDaily, NASA, 21 April 2008, 19 July 2011,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20111109041043weblink">weblink 9 November 2011, live, WEB,weblink Enceladus: Saturn′s Moon, Has Liquid Ocean of Water, Pili, Unofre, Scienceray, 9 September 2009, 21 July 2011,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20111007220555weblink">weblink 7 October 2011, dead, Evidence of this possibility includes the satellite's salt-rich particles having an "ocean-like" composition that indicates most of Enceladus's expelled ice comes from the evaporation of liquid salt water.NEWS,weblink Strongest evidence yet indicates Enceladus hiding saltwater ocean, Physorg, 22 June 2011, 19 July 2011,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20111019155718weblink">weblink 19 October 2011, live, NEWS,weblink Saturn′s moon Enceladus shows evidence of an ocean beneath its surface, Washington Post, Kaufman, Marc, 22 June 2011, 19 July 2011,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20121112193955weblink">weblink 12 November 2012, live, NEWS,weblink Cassini Captures Ocean-Like Spray at Saturn Moon, NASA, 1, Greicius, Tony, Dunbar, Brian, 22 June 2011, 17 September 2011,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20110914203739weblink">weblink 14 September 2011, live,
A 2015 flyby by Cassini through a plume on Enceladus found most of the ingredients to sustain life forms that live by methanogenesis.WEB,weblink NASA Missions Provide New Insights into 'Ocean Worlds' in Our Solar System, Felicia, Chou, Preston, Dyches, Donna, Weaver, Ray, Villard, NASA, 13 April 2017, 20 April 2017,
In April 2014, NASA scientists reported the possible beginning of a new moon within the A Ring, which was imaged by Cassini on 15 April 2013.WEB, 1, Platt, Jane, Brown, Dwayne, NASA Cassini Images May Reveal Birth of a Saturn Moon,weblink 14 April 2014, NASA, 14 April 2014,

Planetary rings

{{multiple image |align=right |direction=horizontal |total_width=450
|image1=Saturn from Cassini Orbiter (2007-01-19).jpg |caption1=The rings of Saturn (imaged here by Cassini in 2007) are the most massive and conspicuous in the Solar System.
|image2=Saturn's A Ring From the Inside Out.jpg |caption2=False-color UV image of Saturn's outer B and A rings; dirtier ringlets in the Cassini Division and Encke Gap show up red.
}}Saturn is probably best known for the system of planetary rings that makes it visually unique.WEB, Saturn,weblink National Maritime Museum, 6 July 2007,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20080623204304weblink">weblink 23 June 2008, dead, 2015-08-20, The rings extend from {{convert|6630|to|120700|km|mi|sp=us}} outward from Saturn's equator and average approximately {{convert|20|m|ft|sp=us}} in thickness. They are composed predominantly of water ice with trace amounts of tholin impurities, and a peppered coating of approximately 7% amorphous carbon.JOURNAL, The Composition of Saturn's Rings, 1, Poulet F., Cuzzi J.N., Icarus, 10.1006/icar.2002.6967, 160, 350, 2002, 2002Icar..160..350P, 2,weblink The particles that make up the rings range in size from specks of dust up to 10 m.WEB, Porco, Carolyn, Carolyn Porco, Questions about Saturn's rings, CICLOPS web site,weblink 18 June 2017, While the other gas giants also have ring systems, Saturn's is the largest and most visible.There are two main hypotheses regarding the origin of the rings. One hypothesis is that the rings are remnants of a destroyed moon of Saturn. The second hypothesis is that the rings are left over from the original nebular material from which Saturn formed. Some ice in the E ring comes from the moon Enceladus's geysers.WEB,weblink Finger-like Ring Structures In Saturn's E Ring Produced By Enceladus' Geysers, CICLOPS web site, PRESS RELEASE,weblink Icy Tendrils Reaching into Saturn Ring Traced to Their Source, 14 April 2015, CICLOPS web site, WEB,weblink The Real Lord of the Rings, Science@NASA, 12 February 2002, 8 February 2018, dead,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20160819131824weblink">weblink 19 August 2016, The water abundance of the rings varies radially, with the outermost ring A being the most pure in ice water. This abundance variance may be explained by meteor bombardment.JOURNAL, Ultraviolet Imaging Spectroscopy Shows an Active Saturnian System, Science, Esposito, Larry W., Colwell, Joshua E., Larsen, Kristopher, McClintock, William E., Stewart, A. Ian F., Hallett, Janet Tew, Shemansky, Donald E., Ajello, Joseph M., Hansen, Candice J., Hendrix, Amanda R., West, Robert A., Keller, H. Uwe, Korth, Axel, Pryor, Wayne R., Reulke, Ralf, Yung, Yuk L., 1, 307, 5713, 1251–1255, February 2005, 10.1126/science.1105606, 15604361, 2005Sci...307.1251E, Beyond the main rings at a distance of 12 million km from the planet is the sparse Phoebe ring, which is tilted at an angle of 27° to the other rings and, like Phoebe, orbits in retrograde fashion.WEB, Rob, Cowen, 7 November 1999,weblink Largest known planetary ring discovered, Science News, 9 April 2010,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20110822023022weblink">weblink 22 August 2011, live, Some of the moons of Saturn, including Pandora and Prometheus, act as shepherd moons to confine the rings and prevent them from spreading out. Pan and Atlas cause weak, linear density waves in Saturn's rings that have yielded more reliable calculations of their masses.WEB,weblink NASA's Cassini Spacecraft Continues Making New Discoveries, ScienceDaily, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 3 March 2005, 19 July 2011,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20111108223641weblink">weblink 8 November 2011, live,

History of observation and exploration

File:Galileo.arp.300pix.jpg|thumb|180px|Galileo GalileiGalileo GalileiThe observation and exploration of Saturn can be divided into three main phases. The first era was ancient observations (such as with the naked eye), before the invention of the modern telescopes. Starting in the 17th century, progressively more advanced telescopic observations from Earth have been made. The third phase is visitation by space probes, by either orbiting or flyby. In the 21st century, observations continue from Earth (including Earth-orbiting observatories like the Hubble Space Telescope) and, until its 2017 retirement, from the Cassini orbiter around Saturn.

Ancient observations

{{See also|Saturn (mythology)}}Saturn has been known since prehistoric timesWEB, Observing Saturn,weblink National Maritime Museum, 6 July 2007,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20070422014136weblink">weblink 22 April 2007, 2015-08-20, and in early recorded history it was a major character in various mythologies. Babylonian astronomers systematically observed and recorded the movements of Saturn. In ancient Greek, the planet was known as Phainon, and in Roman times it was known as the "star of Saturn".Cicero, De Natura Deorum. In ancient Roman mythology, the planet Phainon was sacred to this agricultural god, from which the planet takes its modern name. The Romans considered the god Saturnus the equivalent of the Greek god Cronus; in modern Greek, the planet retains the name Cronus—Κρόνος: Kronos.)WEB,weblink Greek Names of the Planets, 14 July 2012, The Greek name of the planet Saturn is Kronos. The Titan Cronus was the father of Zeus, while Saturn was the Roman God of agriculture., 2010-04-25, See also the (:el:Κρόνος (πλανήτης)|Greek article about the planet).The Greek scientist Ptolemy based his calculations of Saturn's orbit on observations he made while it was in opposition. In Hindu astrology, there are nine astrological objects, known as Navagrahas. Saturn is known as "Shani" and judges everyone based on the good and bad deeds performed in life.WEB, Starry Night Times,weblink 5 July 2007, 2006, Imaginova Corp.,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20091001001723weblink">weblink 1 October 2009, live, Ancient Chinese and Japanese culture designated the planet Saturn as the "earth star" (). This was based on Five Elements which were traditionally used to classify natural elements.BOOK, Jan Jakob Maria, De Groot, 1912, Religion in China: universism. a key to the study of Taoism and Confucianism, American lectures on the history of religions, 10, 300, G. P. Putnam's Sons,weblink 8 January 2010, BOOK, Thomas, Crump, 1992, The Japanese numbers game: the use and understanding of numbers in modern Japan, Nissan Institute/Routledge Japanese studies series, 39–40, Routledge, 978-0415056090, BOOK, Homer Bezaleel, Hulbert, 1909, The passing of Korea, 426, Doubleday, Page & company,weblink 8 January 2010, In ancient Hebrew, Saturn is called 'Shabbathai'.NEWS,weblink When Was Saturn Discovered?, Universe Today, Cessna, Abby, 15 November 2009, 21 July 2011,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20120214113458weblink">weblink 14 February 2012, live, Its angel is Cassiel. Its intelligence or beneficial spirit is 'Agȋȇl (), and its darker spirit (demon) is Zȃzȇl ().WEB, The Magus, Book I: The Celestial Intelligencer: Chapter XXVIII,weblink Sacred-Text.com, 4 August 2018, WEB, Saturn in Mythology,weblink CrystalLinks.com, 5 August 2018, WEB, Beyer, Catherine, Planetary Spirit Sigils – 01 Spirit of Saturn,weblink 8 March 2017, ThoughtCo.com, 3 August 2018, Zazel has been described as a great angel, invoked in Solomonic magic, who is "effective in love conjurations".WEB,weblink Meaning and Origin of: Zazel, FamilyEducation.com, 2014, 3 August 2018, Latin: Angel summoned for love invocations, WEB,weblink Angelic Beings, Hafapea.com, 1998, 3 August 2018, a Solomonic angel of love rituals, In Ottoman Turkish, Urdu and Malay, the name of Zazel is 'Zuhal', derived from the Arabic language ().

European observations (17th–19th centuries)

File:Saturn Robert Hooke 1666.jpg|thumb|Robert HookeRobert HookeSaturn's rings require at least a 15-mm-diameter telescope to resolve and thus were not known to exist until Christiaan Huygens saw them in 1659. Galileo, with his primitive telescope in 1610, incorrectly thought of Saturn's appearing not quite round as two moons on Saturn's sides. It was not until Huygens used greater telescopic magnification that this notion was refuted, and the rings were truly seen for the first time. Huygens also discovered Saturn's moon Titan; Giovanni Domenico Cassini later discovered four other moons: Iapetus, Rhea, Tethys and Dione. In 1675, Cassini discovered the gap now known as the Cassini Division.No further discoveries of significance were made until 1789 when William Herschel discovered two further moons, Mimas and Enceladus. The irregularly shaped satellite Hyperion, which has a resonance with Titan, was discovered in 1848 by a British team.In 1899 William Henry Pickering discovered Phoebe, a highly irregular satellite that does not rotate synchronously with Saturn as the larger moons do. Phoebe was the first such satellite found and it takes more than a year to orbit Saturn in a retrograde orbit. During the early 20th century, research on Titan led to the confirmation in 1944 that it had a thick atmosphere – a feature unique among the Solar System's moons.

Modern NASA and ESA probes

Pioneer 11 flyby

(File:P11saturnb.jpg|thumb|Pioneer 11 image of Saturn)Pioneer 11 made the first flyby of Saturn in September 1979, when it passed within 20,000 km of the planet's cloud tops. Images were taken of the planet and a few of its moons, although their resolution was too low to discern surface detail. The spacecraft also studied Saturn's rings, revealing the thin F-ring and the fact that dark gaps in the rings are bright when viewed at high phase angle (towards the Sun), meaning that they contain fine light-scattering material. In addition, Pioneer 11 measured the temperature of Titan.WEB,weblink The Pioneer 10 & 11 Spacecraft, 5 July 2007, Mission Descriptions,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20060130100401weblink">weblink 30 January 2006, dead,

Voyager flybys

In November 1980, the Voyager 1 probe visited the Saturn system. It sent back the first high-resolution images of the planet, its rings and satellites. Surface features of various moons were seen for the first time. Voyager 1 performed a close flyby of Titan, increasing knowledge of the atmosphere of the moon. It proved that Titan's atmosphere is impenetrable in visible wavelengths; therefore no surface details were seen. The flyby changed the spacecraft's trajectory out from the plane of the Solar System.WEB,weblink Missions to Saturn, The Planetary Society, 2007, 24 July 2007,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20110728044450weblink">weblink 28 July 2011, live, Almost a year later, in August 1981, Voyager 2 continued the study of the Saturn system. More close-up images of Saturn's moons were acquired, as well as evidence of changes in the atmosphere and the rings. Unfortunately, during the flyby, the probe's turnable camera platform stuck for a couple of days and some planned imaging was lost. Saturn's gravity was used to direct the spacecraft's trajectory towards Uranus.The probes discovered and confirmed several new satellites orbiting near or within the planet's rings, as well as the small Maxwell Gap (a gap within the C Ring) and Keeler gap (a 42 km wide gap in the A Ring).

Cassini–Huygens spacecraft

The Cassini–Huygens space probe entered orbit around Saturn on 1 July 2004. In June 2004, it conducted a close flyby of Phoebe, sending back high-resolution images and data. Cassini{{'s}} flyby of Saturn's largest moon, Titan, captured radar images of large lakes and their coastlines with numerous islands and mountains. The orbiter completed two Titan flybys before releasing the Huygens probe on 25 December 2004. Huygens descended onto the surface of Titan on 14 January 2005.Starting in early 2005, scientists used Cassini to track lightning on Saturn. The power of the lightning is approximately 1,000 times that of lightning on Earth.WEB,weblink Astronomers Find Giant Lightning Storm At Saturn, 2007, 27 July 2007, ScienceDaily LLC,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20110828092204weblink">weblink 28 August 2011, live, File:Enceladus geysers June 2009.jpg|thumb|At Enceladus's south pole geysers spray water from many locations along the tiger stripes.]]In 2006, NASA reported that Cassini had found evidence of liquid water reservoirs no more than tens of meters below the surface that erupt in geysers on Saturn's moon Enceladus. These jets of icy particles are emitted into orbit around Saturn from vents in the moon's south polar region.WEB, Pence, Michael,weblink NASA's Cassini Discovers Potential Liquid Water on Enceladus, 9 March 2006, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 3 June 2011,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20110811013419weblink">weblink 11 August 2011, live, Over 100 geysers have been identified on Enceladus.WEB, 1, Dyches, Preston, Brown, Dwayne, Mullins, Steve, Cassini Spacecraft Reveals 101 Geysers and More on Icy Saturn Moon,weblink 28 July 2014, NASA, 29 July 2014, In May 2011, NASA scientists reported that Enceladus "is emerging as the most habitable spot beyond Earth in the Solar System for life as we know it".JOURNAL, Lovett, Richard A., Enceladus named sweetest spot for alien life,weblink 31 May 2011, 3 June 2011, 10.1038/news.2011.337,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20110905061010weblink">weblink 5 September 2011, live, Nature, WEB, Kazan, Casey, Saturn's Enceladus Moves to Top of "Most-Likely-to-Have-Life" List,weblink 2 June 2011, The Daily Galaxy, 3 June 2011,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20110806103640weblink">weblink 6 August 2011, live, Cassini photographs have revealed a previously undiscovered planetary ring, outside the brighter main rings of Saturn and inside the G and E rings. The source of this ring is hypothesized to be the crashing of a meteoroid off Janus and Epimetheus.WEB,weblink Faint new ring discovered around Saturn, 8 July 2007, 20 September 2007, Shiga, David, NewScientist.com,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20080503212602weblink">weblink 3 May 2008, live, In July 2006, images were returned of hydrocarbon lakes near Titan's north pole, the presence of which were confirmed in January 2007. In March 2007, hydrocarbon seas were found near the North pole, the largest of which is almost the size of the Caspian Sea.NEWS,weblink Probe reveals seas on Saturn moon, BBC, Rincon, Paul, 26 September 2007, 14 March 2007,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20111111135219weblink">weblink 11 November 2011, live, In October 2006, the probe detected an 8,000 km diameter cyclone-like storm with an eyewall at Saturn's south pole.NEWS,weblink Huge 'hurricane' rages on Saturn, BBC, Rincon, Paul, 12 July 2007, 10 November 2006,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20110902214204weblink">weblink 2 September 2011, live, From 2004 to 2 November 2009, the probe discovered and confirmed eight new satellites.WEB,weblink Mission overview – introduction, 2010, Cassini Solstice Mission, NASA / JPL, 23 November 2010,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20110807005756weblink">weblink 7 August 2011, live, In April 2013 Cassini sent back images of a hurricane at the planet's north pole 20 times larger than those found on Earth, with winds faster than {{convert|530|km/h|mph|abbr=on}}.NEWS,weblink 3 News NZ, Massive storm at Saturn's north pole, 30 April 2013, On 15 September 2017, the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft performed the "Grand Finale" of its mission: a number of passes through gaps between Saturn and Saturn's inner rings.NEWS, Brown, Dwayne, Cantillo, Laurie, Dyches, Preston, NASA's Cassini Spacecraft Ends Its Historic Exploration of Saturn,weblink 15 September 2017, NASA, 15 September 2017, NEWS, Chang, Kenneth, Cassini Vanishes Into Saturn, Its Mission Celebrated and Mourned,weblink 14 September 2017, The New York Times, 15 September 2017, The atmospheric entry of Cassini ended the mission.

Possible future missions

The continued exploration of Saturn is still considered to be a viable option for NASA as part of their ongoing New Frontiers program of missions. NASA previously requested for plans to be put forward for a mission to Saturn that included an atmospheric entry probe and possible investigations into the habitability and possible discovery of life on Saturn's moons Titan and Enceladus.NEWS,weblink NASA Expands Frontiers of Next New Frontiers Competition, SpaceNews, Jeff, Foust, 8 January 2016, 20 April 2017,

Observation

(File:Saturn-27-03-04.jpeg|thumb|Amateur telescopic view of Saturn)Saturn is the most distant of the five planets easily visible to the naked eye from Earth, the other four being Mercury, Venus, Mars and Jupiter. (Uranus and occasionally 4 Vesta are visible to the naked eye in dark skies.) Saturn appears to the naked eye in the night sky as a bright, yellowish point of light. The mean apparent magnitude of Saturn is 0.46 with a standard deviation of 0.34. Most of the magnitude variation is due to the inclination of the ring system relative to the Sun and Earth. The brightest magnitude, −0.55, occurs near in time to when the plane of the rings is inclined most highly, and the faintest magnitude, 1.17, occurs around the time when they are least inclined. It takes approximately 29.5 years for the planet to complete an entire circuit of the ecliptic against the background constellations of the zodiac. Most people will require an optical aid (very large binoculars or a small telescope) that magnifies at least 30 times to achieve an image of Saturn's rings, in which clear resolution is present. Twice every Saturnian year (roughly every 15 Earth years), the rings briefly disappear from view, due to the way in which they are angled and because they are so thin. Such a "disappearance" will next occur in 2025, but Saturn will be too close to the Sun for any ring-crossing observation to be possible.WEB,weblink Saturn's Rings Edge-On, 2013, Classical Astronomy,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20131105231722weblink">weblink 5 November 2013, 4 August 2013, dead, (File:Saturnoppositions-animated.gif|thumb|left|Simulated appearance of Saturn as seen from Earth (at opposition) during an orbit of Saturn, 2001–2029)File:Saturn eclipse.jpg|thumb|Saturn eclipses the Sun, as seen from Cassini. The rings are visible, including the F Ring.]]Saturn and its rings are best seen when the planet is at, or near, opposition, the configuration of a planet when it is at an elongation of 180°, and thus appears opposite the Sun in the sky. A Saturnian opposition occurs every year—approximately every 378 days—and results in the planet appearing at its brightest. Both the Earth and Saturn orbit the Sun on eccentric orbits, which means their distances from the Sun vary over time, and therefore so do their distances from each other, hence varying the brightness of Saturn from one opposition to the next. Saturn also appears brighter when the rings are angled such that they are more visible. For example, during the opposition of 17 December 2002, Saturn appeared at its brightest due to a favorable (:File:Saturnoppositions.jpg|orientation of its rings) relative to the Earth,JOURNAL, Saturn in 2002–03, Schmude Jr., Richard W., Winter 2003, Georgia Journal of Science, 0147-9369, 61, 4,weblink 29 June 2015, even though Saturn was closer to the Earth and Sun in late 2003.(File:Saturn - HST 2019-06-20 full size.jpg|thumb|HST Saturn portrait from 20 June 2019)From time to time Saturn is occulted by the Moon (that is, the Moon covers up Saturn in the sky). As with all the planets in the Solar System, occultations of Saturn occur in "seasons". Saturnian occultations will take place 12 or more times over a 12-month period, followed by about a five-year period in which no such activity is registered.NEWS, Bright Saturn will blink out across Australia – for an hour, anyway,weblink 11 May 2014, The Conversation, 9 May 2014, 1, Tanya Hill, Jonti Horner, Australian astronomy experts Hill and Horner explain the seasonal nature of Saturnian occultations:This is the result of the fact that the moon’s orbit around the Earth is tilted to the orbit of the Earth around the Sun – and so most of the time, the moon will pass above or below Saturn in the sky, and no occultation will occur. It is only when Saturn lies near the point that the moon’s orbit crosses the "plane of the ecliptic" that occultations can happen – and then they occur every time the moon swings by, until Saturn moves away from the crossing point.File:PIA17218 – A Farewell to Saturn, Annotated Version.jpg|thumb|center|800px|Farewell to Saturn and moons (Enceladus, Epimetheus, Janus, Mimas, Pandora and Prometheus), by Cassini (21 November 2017).]]

Notes

{{reflist|group=lower-alpha}}

References

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Potential solar system sites pop up, USA Today, Peter N., Spotts, 28 September 2005, 21 July 2011,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20080726234052weblink">weblink 26 July 2008, live, JOURNAL, Babylonian Observational Astronomy, A., Sachs, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, 276, 1257, 2 May 1974, 43–50, 74273, 10.1098/rsta.1974.0008, 1974RSPTA.276...43S, NEWS,weblink Cassini reveals oxygen atmosphere of Saturn′s moon Rhea, UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory, Clare, Ryan, 26 November 2010, 23 July 2011,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20110916174510weblink">weblink 16 September 2011, live, NEWS,weblink Hunt for Life on Saturnian Moon Heats Up, Wired Science, Alexis, Madrigal, 24 June 2009, 19 July 2011,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20110904152001weblink">weblink 4 September 2011, live, NEWS,weblink Orbit of Saturn, Universe Today, Fraser, Cain, 26 January 2009, 19 July 2011,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20110123084633weblink">weblink 23 January 2011, live, JOURNAL, Popular Miscellany – Superstitions about Saturn, The Popular Science Monthly, 862, April 1893,weblink Corporation, Bonnier, BOOK, Gunter, Faure, Teresa M., Mensing, Introduction to planetary science: the geological perspective, Springer, 2007, 978-1-4020-5233-0, 337,weblink WEB,weblink NASA – Saturn, NASA, 27 July 2007, 2004,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20101229031643weblink">weblink 29 December 2010, dead, BOOK, Imke, de Pater, Jack J., Lissauer, Planetary Sciences, 2nd, Cambridge University Press, 2010, 978-0-521-85371-2, 254–255,weblink BOOK, 1, Guillot, Tristan, Atreya, Sushil, Charnoz, Sébastien, Dougherty, Michele K., Read, Peter, Saturn's Exploration Beyond Cassini-Huygens, Saturn from Cassini-Huygens, Dougherty, Michele K., Esposito, Larry W., Krimigis, Stamatios M., 978-1-4020-9216-9, Springer Science+Business Media B.V., 745, 2009, 10.1007/978-1-4020-9217-6_23, 2009sfch.book..745G, 0912.2020, JOURNAL, 1, The Composition of Saturn's Atmosphere at 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Further reading

  • BOOK, Alexander, Arthur Francis O'Donel, Arthur Francis O'Donel Alexander, The Planet Saturn - A History of Observation, Theory and Discovery, Dover, 1980, 1962, 978-0-486-23927-9,
  • MAGAZINE, Gore, Rick, Voyager 1 at Saturn: Riddles of the Rings, National Geographic, 160, 1, 3–31, July 1981, 0027-9358, 643483454,
  • BOOK, Lovett, L., Horvath, J., Cuzzi, J., 1, Saturn: A New View, Harry N. Abrams, 2006, 978-0-8109-3090-2,
  • BOOK, Karttunen, H., Kröger, P., 1, Fundamental Astronomy, Springer, 5th, 2007, 978-3-540-34143-7,
  • JOURNAL, Seidelmann, P. Kenneth, Archinal, Brent A., A'Hearn, Michael F., Conrad, Albert R., Consolmagno, Guy J., Hestroffer, Daniel, Hilton, James L., Krasinsky, Georgij A., Neumann, Gregory A., Oberst, Jürgen, Stooke, Philip J., Tedesco, Edward F., Tholen, David J., Thomas, Peter C., Williams, Iwan P., 1, Report of the IAU/IAG Working Group on cartographic coordinates and rotational elements: 2006, Celestial Mechanics and Dynamical Astronomy, 98, 3, 155–180, 2007, 10.1007/s10569-007-9072-y, 2007CeMDA..98..155S,
  • BOOK, de Pater, Imke, Lissauer, Jack J.,weblink Planetary Sciences, Cambridge University Press, 2nd updated, 250, 2015, 978-0-521-85371-2,

External links

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