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Saturn

A Beautiful Ringed Planet

 

Where Is The Planet Saturn Found In The Solar System?

Saturn is a planet in the Solar System and the sixth planet from the Sun.  Saturn is actually one of the biggest planets in the Solar System – the second largest planet in fact; and this was named after the Roman god Saturn which was the god of agriculture. Saturn is a gas and giant planet which is nine times the diameter of Earth. – the radius is several times bigger than that of the Earth.  The density isn’t as high as that of Earth and it certainly is an amazing planet.

The interior of the planet and its core is going to be made up from a rock combination of oxygen and silicon, as well as iron and nickel. This core is going to have a deep layer of metallic hydrogen surrounding it with a liquid layer of helium and hydrogen; though there is also a gaseous layer surrounding the core fully. Due to the ammonia crystals in the atmosphere of the planet, there is a yellow hue given out.

The planetary magnetic field and the high rise of this are due to the electrical current given within the metallic hydrogen that is found on the planet.  Though, the outer atmosphere of the planet is going to be very bland.  The wind speeds that are found on Saturn can reach huge speeds of almost 1100 miles per hour or 1800 kilometres per hour.  This is actually faster than the wind speeds found on the planet of Jupiter but Neptune does have faster wind speeds.

Saturn does however, have a ring system. This is going to be made up of 9 different but continuous rings which are the main rings; and there is also 3 other arcs which aren’t continuous in features. These arcs are going to be made mostly of ice particles and some small amounts of dust, rocks and rocky debris. There are however, 62 different moons that are orbiting Saturn, though; there are only 62 known moons that have been found up to date; though there are only 52 moons that have been officially named.  However, these moons are not included with the little moonlets; these are smaller moons which are found deep within the rings of the planet.

Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, is also one of the biggest moons in the Solar System; it is the second biggest. Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, is also bigger than Mercury which is truly amazing and it has its own atmosphere which is stabile.  It’s the only moon in the entire Solar System to be able to have this.

Saturn, second largest planet
Saturn and Earth sizes / Photo Courtesy of NASA

The Physical Characteristics

It is known that Saturn is considered to be a gas giant planet; this is because the exterior of the planet is going to be made up mostly of gas. It also doesn’t have a definite surface; however it is thought that the core is a solid core. It can resemble the shape of an oblate spheroid but that is because of how the planet rotates. This is because the equator looks very bulky and the poles very flat; though this does have many things in common with the other thee gas giant planet such as Neptune, Jupiter and Uranus.

Saturn has a density which is lesser than that of water and even though the core of the planet is denser than what water will be, the overall density is very low.  This is because of the gas formed on the planet; though it does have a lot more mass than Earth – 90 times the amount of Earth.

The Internal Structure of Saturn and Atmosphere

Many consider Saturn to be a gas giant, however, it might be made from gas, it’s not entire made from it.  There is a lot of hydrogen, in fact most of the planet is made from this but hydrogen will become a liquid when the density changes on the planet.  The density, temperature and the pressure held within the planet can form towards the core which can make the hydrogen to change into a metal when it reaches the deepest layers of the planet.

The exact internal structure of the planet is not actually well known as yet because no one has been able to study it in full.  It is thought that it has a similar structure like Jupiter which has a small rocky core with helium and hydrogen gas surrounding it; and there are some suggestions that there are some very small trace amounts of various volatiles within the structure of the planet.  The core is probably like Earths but denser.

The interior of the planet is however extremely hot.  It can reach 11,700 °Celsius and can be extremely dangerous also. No one has set foot on the planet and can’t really so it is very difficult to be able to explore the planet in full. There are still a lot of factors about Saturn that is unknown and unexplored.

The outer atmosphere of Saturn is mostly made up of molecular hydrogen gas – almost 96% with about 3-4 % made up of helium.  There are however some trace elements of acetylene, ethane, phosphine, methane, propane and ammonia – all of which have been found in the atmosphere of the planet.

The sixth planet
A Great Saturn Storm / Photo Courtesy of NASA

The Orbit System of Saturn and the Planetary Rings

Saturn’s orbit system can take almost 30 years to orbit the Sun.  It takes around 29 years and around 6 or 7 months to orbit and it has very slow speeds of around 9.69 km/s. With the planetary rings, they are the most unique and loved parts of the planet. They are almost 20 meters thick and are made up of almost 93% of water ice. There are some traces of tholin and carbon contained within the rings of Saturn which is around 7%. There are many particles that go into creating the ring sizes, which can range anything from a molecule of dust through to 10 meters in size.

Saturn does have the biggest ring system in the Solar System and they are the most visible also. Some say that the rings were created because of a destroyed moon that was present around Saturn and the rings are remnants of the moon.  However, some experts also say that the rings are found there because material left from the planet.  One thing is for sure, the ice in the central rings of Saturn has come from Enceladus – this is a moon of Saturn.  If this is the case, then the rings are millions of years old.

Saturn can be seen from the Earth but it is the most distant planet to view.  There are only 5 planets which can be seen with the naked eye; however Saturn can only be seen during the night and it will be shown as a yellow and very bright light.  It is said that it take almost 29 and a half years to actually make one circuit which is an extremely lengthy time to take.  Though, to spot this planet, usually it will require a telescope because it’ll be the only way to actually see the rings of Saturn close up clearly.  They are beautiful.

 

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Photo Courtesy of NASA

Jupiter

The largest planet

 

Jupiter, one planet in the Solar System and the fifth planet found from the Sun.  Jupiter is in fact the biggest of all planets found in the Solar System of today.  Jupiter is a huge planet and it is a gas giant planet also; though it doesn’t quite compare to the Sun, it certainly is more dangerous than many of the other planets out there.

Since this is a gas planet, it is similar to that of Neptune, Saturn and Uranus because they too are gas giant planets. Though, Jupiter is one of the four outer or Jovian Planets. Jupiter and Saturn, Uranus and Neptune are called the Jovian Planets because of their mass and because they are a gas giant. This has been a planet which has been around for many decades, if not hundreds of years.  It certainly was discovered well before modern times.

In many cultures such as in Roman times, the Romans used to worship the god Jupiter and they named this planet after their god. It has been closely associated with a lot of different beliefs for religion as well as myths surrounding many of the world’s oldest secrets and myths. Though, it can be seen from the Earth and it will be one of the brightest objects in the sky. It can really only be seen at night but it is not as bright as the Moon and the Planet Venus.

Though, Mars can at some points, be as bright as Jupiter but it depends on where it is in the orbit stage.  It certainly going to be one of the brightest planets out in the Solar System today and many people do look for this planet as night falls.

The Gas Giant

However, Jupiter is mostly made up of hydrogen gas but helium does also play a part of the planet. Helium however only makes up a small portion of Jupiter whereas the hydrogen really covers most of the planet. The planet is not really going to be able to have a good solid surface; it doesn’t and it can be difficult to explore also. It’s said that the core of the planet is rockier and is considerably heavier than what most other planets will be.

The gas giant does have a very quick rotation period which means that the shape of the planet is sort of odd. It’s an oblate spheroid which isn’t quite round but not quite a circle shape either, it’s something in between a circle and sphere. It does sort of have a large bulge near the equator which can often be seen which gives the planet a very odd looking shape.

Jupiter Facts and Information
The Great Red Spot / Photo Courtesy of NASA

However, the outer atmosphere of the planet is going to be split or segregated into different parts; and this is at different latitude heights. What this creates is a bigger turbulence problem as well as storms which cause a lot of problems along their interacting boundary. What these problems can create is the Great Red Spot which has been around for many, many years; since the 17th century, this giant storm has been in existence due to what is thought of to be because of the turbulence and storms forming around the planet.

The Great Red Spot was first seen in the 17th through a telescope but it could have been around for longer.  There is nothing to say it hasn’t been there for longer but that was when it was first seen. Many have speculated that the Great Red Spot storm has been around for more than just the 17th century but it’s unknown for sure.

The Planetary Rings and Moons

Jupiter has a planetary ring system that surrounds the planet, however it also has a very strong and powerful magnetosphere. These rings are a very faint ring system but they can’t often be seen.  Many people do not in fact know there is a planetary ring system surrounding the planet but it is a very important part of the planet.

The Planet Jupiter does have 67 different moons – there might actually be more but only 67 have been discovered so far. There are still many more explorers trying to find a new moon of Jupiter and add to the collection. However, of all known moons to date, it is the Galilean moons which are of the biggest. There are four of them and these are very big, bigger than most and they were the moons that were discovered by Galileo Galilei back in the year 1610.  Though, the biggest moon of all, has to be the Ganymede Moon; this has a huge diameter which is bigger than Mercury the planet. That is a huge size for just one moon.

Jupiter has seen its fair share of explorations; though all of the explorations have been conducted by robotic spacecrafts.  This means that no man has actually landed on the planet themselves and has allowed the robotic spacecraft to explore the planet.  More often than not, it is the flyby missions that have explored the planet especially during some of the earliest missions by Voyager and Pioneer.

Though, the New Horizons spacecraft back in 2007, was on its way to Pluto when it explored part of the planet. Though, ingeniously the craft was able to gain more speed via the gravity of Jupiter and that which surrounded it. There have also been more future exploration targets set because explorers want to know more about the Jovian moons and how the system works.  It is thought that there is a ice covered liquid ocean on Europa which is a moon in the Jovian range and people want to know if this is true or not. There is a big belief there is a liquid ocean on the Jupiter moon that has been iced over.

Jupiter moons
Europa, a Jupiter’s Moon / Photo Courtesy of NASA

The Structure of Jupiter

Jupiter is thought to have a dense core; and it could have a mixture of different elements supporting the core with a liquid metallic hydrogen layer outlined with helium. It is also thought to have an outer layer which is hydrogen also; though this is a rough guess because the core isn’t very well known as yet. It may have been discovered many, many years ago but there are still a lot of areas to be covered and discovered also.  For many, they think the core is rocky and exact details are hard to pick up because there is a lot of uncertainty.

There is speculation that the core has to be made up of either rock or ice; the reason why is because most believe the core needs to very big, big enough to be able to collect a huge amount of gasses such as helium and hydrogen. The atmosphere however on the planet’s surface is quite big. It does have the Solar System’s biggest planetary atmosphere and technically there is no surface. It’s difficult to describe because it have a very odd shaping, no one has actually reached the surface to see.  It’s made up of gas which is dangerous and almost impossible to explore by man. This is a huge and exciting planet with so much unexplored also.

 

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Uranus

An Ice Giant

 

Uranus is one of the largest planets in the Solar System and it is found seven places from the Sun. The planet can be very similar to Neptune because of the composition it has but they are two very different planets.

This is going to be made up of helium and hydrogen – which are gases – but this is not a gas planet, it is considered to be an ice giant. The reason why is because it will have things such as hydrocarbons, methane, ammonia and water ice found in the surface.  It will also have the coldest planet atmosphere in the Solar System.

Uranus does have its own ring system as well as its own magnetosphere; along with a handful of moons. Though, the planet has their north and south poles at their equate line instead of where most others would find them. However in 1986, images brought back from a spacecraft passing the planet showed that the planet’s surface was almost featureless. This meant that it didn’t have cloud bands or storms clouding the planet that most other planets would have.

It was very surprising news however but it does even have some season changes or at least there have been many signs over this. The weather activity in recent years has looked to have improved and it is very strange because very few other planets will have this. It has been said that the wind speeds found on Uranus have the ability to reach almost 250 m/s (meters per second) which is a huge amount of speed.

The planet is however, visible to the naked eye, just like a few other planets; but for many years, no one thought this to be a planet because of the planet’s slow orbit. Today it is but many years ago, it wasn’t. Uranus was however, the first planet to be discovered via a telescope. This was how the planet was discovered which was fairly unique; though more and more planets have been discovered via telescope since.

The Discovery of Uranus

Many people did observe the planet before it was officially discovered as a planet but for many years, most people thought it was a star rather than a planet. Some say that it was first seen in 1690 but back then, it was thought to be just a star; there have been many sightings since and some believed it was an asteroid heading for Earth at one point. Though, the planet was eventually discovered and named by William Herschel.

Uranus, the seventh planet
Uranus Planet / Photo Courtesy of NASA

Orbit

The planet will orbit the Sun only once for every 84 Earth years which is a length period of time to orbit the Sun. The rotational period of the interior of the planet is about 17 hours though. The planet does have an axis tilt of 97.8 degrees also.

This can actually be seen via the naked eye though this can be tough at times because it’s not really visible during the day. At night or when the skies are very dark, it is going to be very visible to the naked eye scanning for this planet. Even though with binoculars will be able to see the planet so it isn’t just those with telescopes who are going to be able to find this.  It will look a Pale Cyan disk with a few darker spots.

The Moons of Uranus 

Uranus is going to have 27 known moons. There are different names for each moon and most have been named after Alexander Pope or Shakespeare. Some of the very biggest moons are Oberon, Umbriel, Ariel, Miranda and Titania; and the moons of the Uranus aren’t actually that large in terms of the other systems of the gas giant planets. Though, the moons are made up of ice rock and it makes up a good 50% of the rock; though the ice can at times include carbon dioxide and ammonia also.

Ariel is the one which has the youngest of all surfaces because it doesn’t have many impact craters. This means that the moon isn’t that old because the fewer impact craters, the younger it will be.  The more crater impacts there are, the older it will be.  However, the oldest of all moons will be Umbriel. This is thought to be the oldest of all of the moons that have been found to date; though Miranda is going to have canyons which are almost 20 kilometres deep with terraced layer.

It will also have chaotic variations in the surface features and the ages. This is a moon which is very unique on its own; but its thought to have its past geologic activity was because of tidal heating. The orbit systems of the moons are all very different.

A gas giant
Size comparison Earth-Uranus / Photo Courtesy of NASA

Exploring the Planet

Back in 1986, NASA first sent Voyager 2 which was a spacecraft, to Uranus. This was only a flyby of the planet and it is still to date, the only spacecraft that went to the planet to explore and investigate it closely. However, there are no current plans to send another spacecraft to the planet which is a shame because there is still so much of the planet that is unknown.

However, Voyager 2 did manage to study the structure of the planet as well as the chemical composition of the atmosphere. The spacecraft also was able to document the weather on the planet which was considered to be very unique. This could be caused because of the axis tilt of around 97 degrees; and the spacecraft was able to investigate the moons of Uranus. It was able to explore the 5 largest moons of the planet and at the same time, was able to discover another 10 moons which were previously undiscovered.

However, the spacecraft was even able to go ahead and explore the nine rings of the planet; and at the same time, another two rings were discovered to be formed. The magnetic field was also studied and how the structure was formed because it can be at times, very odd or irregular. The tilt of the planet as well as many other factors of the planet was closely studied and looked at.

To be honest, when it comes to sending another spacecraft to the planet, it will take several years to get to Uranus. It can take two decades to get to the Uranian system because it needs to first head to Saturn and then leave Saturn and head towards Uranus. There are many questions about sending a probe to the planet; and there are many indications that there is going to be a spacecraft heading to the planet but there is nothing set in stone.

There are a lot of explorers who want to head to the planet and find out more about it as well as explore the possibilities of forming new life in the planet. There could be huge plans for the future to explore the planet more and more.

 

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