Saturn Fact File

Saturn - the ringed planet

Saturn is a gas giant made mostly of hydrogen and helium. Its volume is 755 times greater than Earth's. Winds in the upper atmosphere can reach 500 meters per second in the equatorial region. The yellow and gold bands visible in its atmosphere is the combination of these super-fast winds and heat rising from the planet's interior.

Saturn has the most extensive and complex ring system in our solar system; it extends hundreds of thousands of kilometers from the planet. Saturn's rings are made mostly of water ice. Some of the small moons orbit within the ring system as well. Material in the rings ranges in size from a few micrometers to several tens of meters.

Saturn has 34 known natural satellites (moons). Titan, the largest, is a bit bigger than the planet Mercury. Titan is shrouded in a thick nitrogen-rich atmosphere. Saturn has many smaller icy satellites each of which has unique characteristics.

Images taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope show that Saturn's polar regions have aurorae similar to Earth's Northern and Southern Lights. Aurorae occur when charged particles spiral into a planet's atmosphere along magnetic field lines.

Recently a new moon has been discovered within the Saturn's ring system by the Cassini probe. The moon is nicknamed "Wavemaker". This brings the total known moons to 35.

Saturn: Facts & Figures

  • Average Distance from the Sun: 1,426,725,400 km
  • Perihelion (closest): 1,349,467,000 km
  • Aphelion (farthest): 1,503,983,000 km
  • Equatorial Radius: 60,268 km
  • Equatorial Circumference: 378,675 km
  • Mass: 568,510,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 kg
  • Volume: 827,130,000,000,000 km3
  • Density: 0.70 g/cm3
  • Surface Area: Metric: 43,466,000,000 km2
  • Equatorial Surface Gravity: 7.207 m/s2
  • Escape Velocity: Metric: 127,760 km/h
  • Length of Day: 10.656 hours
  • Length of Year: 10755.7 Earth days (29.4 Earth years)
  • Mean Orbit Velocity: 34,821 km/h
  • Orbital Eccentricity: .0541506
  • Orbital Inclination to Ecliptic: 2.484 degrees
  • Equatorial Inclination to Orbit: 26.73 degrees
  • Orbital Circumference: 8,725,000,000 km
  • Effective Temperature: -178 °C
  • Atmospheric Constituents: Hydrogen, Helium
  • Number of Moons: 35

Source: NASA