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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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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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