Facts About the Planet Saturn for Kids
The Ringed Planet
In 1610, Italian Scientist Galileo Galilei looked at the planet Saturn through a telescope. He was very confused by what he saw. He said it looked like the planet had ears. Of course, these "ears" were really the rings that go around the planet. Saturn is best known for these amazing rings.
At first astronomers thought there was just one big ring. But better telescopes revealed that there are actually multiple rings. The rings are mainly made up of ice, rocks and dust. Some of these rocks are as big as a truck. Some are tiny pebbles.
The Solar System
The Solar System is made up of the Sun and all the objects that travel around it. These objects include planets, moons, asteroids, comets and meteoroids. Saturn is one of eight planets that orbit the Sun. An orbit is a planet's path around the Sun.
The four planets closest to the Sun are called the inner planets. The other four are called outer planets. Saturn is the sixth planet from the sun, so it's an outer planet.
A Gas Giant
The four inner planets are solid balls made mostly of rock. The four outer planets are made of gas. If you tried to walk on them, you would sink. The gases that make up the outer planets are the atmosphere. Saturn's atmosphere is made up of hydrogen and helium gases. These gases are poisonous to human beings.
Gases usually can't be seen. But it's so cold on Saturn that the atmosphere freezes and the gas turns into crystals. The clouds that make up the atmosphere are made up of crystals. Saturn does have a solid center or core but it isn't visible because of the gaseous atmosphere. Scientists think this solid core is about the size of planet Earth.
Planets orbit the Sun. The orbit is the planet's path around the sun. The inner planets have shorter orbits than the outer planets. A year is the time it takes to fully orbit the Sun, so the outer planets have longer years. A year on Earth is 365 days. A year on Saturn is 29.5 Earth years.
Planets also spin or rotate. It takes Earth 24 hours to rotate. We call this a day. But Saturn's day is much shorter. It is only 10 hours and 39 minutes. That's less than half of an Earth day. Saturn spins much faster than the Earth.
The Earth has one moon. Moons are also called natural satellites. Scientists have found about 20 moons orbiting Saturn. Most of these moons or satellites are made of rock and ice and many are covered with holes called craters. One of Saturn's moons Titan is the second largest in the solar system. Jupiter's moon Ganymede is the largest of all. Titan is actually bigger than the planet Mercury.