Facts About Saturn

Saturn captured by Voyager 1

Above: Saturn captured by the Cassini spacecraft in March 2015, taken from a distance of 2.6 million km (1.6 million mi). Tethys can be seen bottom right (brightened to make it more visible) (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute).

Quick Fact File

Dimensions

120,536 km - the diameter (74,898 miles) of the planet.

58,232 km - the equatorial radius (36,184 miles).

945% - comparison in size to Earth.

365,882 km - the equatorial circumference (227,349 miles).

42,612,133,285 km² - the surface area (16,452,636,641 mi²).

Distances

1.51 billion km - maximum distance from the Sun (938 million miles).

1.35 billion km - minimum distance from the Sun (839 million miles).

1.43 billion km - mean distance from the Sun (889 million miles).

1.2 billion km - closest distance to Earth (746 million miles).

Movement

29 years - the orbital period of the planet Saturn - the time taken to orbit the Sun in Earth years (29.457 years).

10,756 days - the time taken to orbit the Sun in Earth days (10,755.70 days).

10.7 hours - the rotation period - the time taken for the planet to rotate on its own axis (10.656 hours).

34,883 km/h - the speed that Saturn travels through space, relative to the sun (21,675 mph).

9.69 km/s - that speed expressed in terms of distance covered each second (6.02 mi/s).

Saturn and the ring system, seen from above

Above: Saturn and the ring system, seen from above, captured by the Cassini spacecraft (Credit: NASA/JPL/SSI/Gordan Ugarkovic).

10,756 days - the length of a year on Saturn, in Earth days (10,755.70 days).

1,800 km/h - the speed (1,120 mph) that winds have been known to reach on Saturn.

96% - the amount of Saturn's density made up from hydrogen (of the rest, 3% is helium with the remaining 1% a mix of other, heavier elements found at the core).

10,000 - the approximate amount more power that Saturn's electric storms produce compared to lightning here on Earth.

Saturn's moon Dione captured by Cassini

Above: Saturn's moon Dione captured by the Cassini spacecraft in June 2015 (the diagonal line top left is the rings of Saturn seen in the distance) (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute).

25,000 km - the estimated diameter (15,500 mi) of Saturn's core.

11,700°C - the estimated temperature (22,000°F) of the core, which is thought to be comprised of molten rock and metal.

15,000 km - the estimated depth (9,300 mi) of the sea of liquid metallic hydrogen surrounding Saturn's core.

Did You Know?

Saturn's core alone could have as much as 22 times the mass of planet Earth.

1,000 km - the approximate depth (620 mi) of the atmosphere surrounding Saturn, which is comprised mainly of hydrogen gas, wrapped in a high altitude layer of ammonia cloud (the cloud layer that gives the planet it is creamy hue).

1980 - the year in which Voyager 1, the first of two Voyager probes, bypassed Saturn (returning for a second bypass in 1981).

15 October 1997 - the date on which the latest explorer, the Cassini probe, was launched.

December 2004 - the month Cassini entered orbit around Saturn.

14 January 2005 - the date that the Huygens vehicle, launched from the Cassini probe, landed on the largest of Saturn's moons, Titan.

Moons of Saturn

Saturn's moon Enceladus captured by the Cassini probe

Above: A remarkable view of Saturn's moon Enceladus, captured by the Cassini probe in 2008. It is a geologically active moon covered with fractures, ridges and folds created by tectonic plate activity (Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute).

62 - the number of known moons in orbit around Saturn, similar in number to neighbouring Jupiter. All but around 18 are very small, and before the Voyager 1 flypast in 1980 we knew of only 9 moons.

5,151 km - the diameter (3,201 mi) of Saturn's largest satellite, Titan, larger even than the planet Mercury.

Dione transiting Saturn, photographed by the Cassini spacecraft

Above: Dione transiting Saturn, photographed by the Cassini spacecraft from a distance of approximately 2.3 million km (1.4 million mi), 21 May 2015 (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute).

Saturns Rings

3 - the number of bands in the main ring system; A and B (bright) and C - also known as the Crêpe ring - (semi transparent). These bands are formed of billions of ice fragments ranging from microscopic to blocks the size of houses.

Saturn captured by Voyager 1

Above: Saturn captured by Voyager 1 in November 1988, taken from a distance of 5.3 million km (3.3 million mi), showing the 3 distinct bands of rings (Credit: NASA/JPL).

270,000 km - the diameter (170,000 mi) of the outer rings, making Saturn's rings the largest in the solar system.

Did You Know?

The origin of the icy material in Saturn's rings is not known, the two main hypothesis being that they were formed when either a) an icy moon was shattered by the planet's gravitational pull, or b) a satellite was smashed apart in collision with another satellite or object.

15 years - the approximate cycle at which Saturn's rings appear edge-on to astronomical observers on Earth, at which point they almost disappear from view. The next time they will be edge-on is 2025.

9 - the number of distinct major rings so far identified by astronomers.

10 m - the thickness (33 feet) of Saturns rings in places.

93% - the aproximate composition of the rings that ice represents, the rest is made up of rocks and dust.

74,700 km - the distance (46,300 mi) from the centre of Saturn to the inner edge of C ring.

17,300 km - the distance (10,700 mi) from the inner to the outer edge of the Crêpe (C) ring.

25,580 km - the distance (16,060 mi) from the inner to the outer edge of B ring.

14,610 km - the distance (9,090 mi) from the inner to the outer edge of A ring.

4,590 km - the distance (2,840 mi) from the inner to the outer edge of the Cassini Division, the large gap between A and B rings.

Enceladus and Tethys align above Saturn's rings

Above: Enceladus and Tethys align above Saturn's rings in this image captured by Cassini in September 2015 (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute).

184,000 km - the diameter (114,000 mi) of the outer edge of C ring.

235,160 km - the diameter (146,120 mi) of the outer edge of B ring.

273,560 km - the diameter (169,980 mi) of the outer edge of A ring.

30 million billion tonnes - one estimate of the combined mass of Saturn's rings.


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