Saturn is one of the most striking to observe planets, but also is an extraordinary world that constantly amazes scientists. We can all see the planet Saturn with our own eyes this comes before us, mimicking a small yellow star in the night sky. Saturn is one of the 5 planets visible to the naked eye from Earth’s surface and with a small telescope. We can distinguish its rings and the planet at the center.
The first astronomer to observe Saturn through a telescope was Galileo Galilei In 1610, and what I see I leave confused. Given the low resolution and quality of his instrument, Galileo did not realize that what he saw around the planet were rings. Then in 1659, thanks to new observations, the Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens understood that Saturn had a ring around it. Subsequently, the Italian astronomer, Gian Domenico Cassini confirmed the existence of rings and found that they were not a single structure, but there were areas and even an empty division among them.
In modern times, Saturn has been visited on 4 occasions by unmanned spacecraft. Three of them made brief flybys. The first was the Pioneer 11, 1979 followed by the Voyager 1 in 1980, and later by Voyager 2 in 1981. But only in 2004 with the mission Cassini / Huygens (Joint mission NASA and ESAA) a spacecraft entered orbit around the planet. Specifically, this research advanced Saturn gives us access to surprising data, seven of which can meet the following:
1. It is unknown how old the characteristic rings of Saturn. For some scientists, the rings may be very old, being present from the beginning of the solar system, about 4500 or 4600 million years and would result from the breakup of a moon affected by gravity on the planet. Others meanwhile, believe that these can be very recent, no older than 100 million years.
2. Believe it or not, Saturn is a giant gas planet, composed mostly of hydrogen and only has a small solid core. Planet density is 0.687 gram per cubic centimeter, while the density of water is 1 gram per cubic centimeter. Thus, Saturn is less dense than water (in fact, is the planet with lower average density in the solar system).
3. Saturn is far from a perfect sphere, is actually a flattened sphere, that as a result of its high speed (have day averages of 10 hours, 32 minutes and 35 seconds). The distance from the center toward the poles of the planet is 54,000 miles or so, while from the center to Ecuador is about 60,300 kilometers.
4. Saturn currently counts 62 confirmed natural satellites with orbits (53 of them have definitive names and another 9 have temporary names). This puts it in the second place among the planets with moons in the Solar System. Some moons are really great, like Titan (Saturn’s largest moon and the second largest in our solar system). Most of these satellites have been discovered recently and are very small.
5. Viewed from Earth, every so often makes us believe that Saturn has lost its rings. But this is only a visual phenomenon, resulting from the change in position of the giant on his journey around the sun, since it also has a tilted axis. Thus, in certain situations, as will occur between 2024 and 2025, from Earth see the rings of Saturn “on edge” and will therefore be almost imperceptible.
6. Thanks to scientific observation, we now know that Saturn’s atmosphere has giant storms of sizes that can reach thousands of kilometers in diameter. In the 80′s, the space probe Voyager 1, detected in the planet’s magnetic atmosphere, a huge storm, the Cassini mission 30 years later, also observed in detail.
7. They have discovered some small moons of Saturn, which play an incredible role, since they help keep the planet’s rings stable, orbiting in their midst or nearby. These moons have been classified popularly as “shepherd moons” because they use their gravity to hold small ring particles in a stable orbit. Even, there are gaps between the rings of Saturn are caused by these moons.