Why does Saturn have rings?

What Is Saturn Made Of?

Saturn is the sixth planet in our Milky Way galaxy and is most known for its beautiful rings. Saturn was the Roman name for the Greek god ‘Cronus’, who was the Titan lord in mythology. Like so many words that we use today, Saturn is the base word for Saturday.  To understand what Saturn is made up, we have to know about the different types of planets.

In the Milky Way galaxy we have two kinds of planets: gas giants and solid planets. Earth is a solid planet, although we have a gaseous atmosphere. Gas giants usually have a solid core, but the rest is totally made of gas. It’s thought that if these gas giants, which includes Saturn, Jupiter, Neptune and Uranus, had continued to develop enough ‘fusion power’, they could have become suns.  Instead, they are part of our eight planets that circle around our own sun.

SaturnSaturn is so large that over 760 earths could fit inside it. It is believed to have an iron core that is ten to twenty times the size of earths. Its density (weight) is so low, that if you had a Saturn-sized bathtub, it would actually float. Most of the gas that is on Saturn is helium and hydrogen. There are smaller amounts of methane, ammonia, and other gases. Above the solid iron core it is believed there is a layer of methane, ammonia and water. The next layer is very compressed liquid metallic hydrogen and then a very thick layer of hydrogen and helium. As you move further away from the surface, it’s the helium and hydrogen gases that merge to become its atmosphere.

Saturn also has winds that whip around the planet at nearing 1,800 kph. The winds are caused by the fact that Saturn is the fastest spinning planet that we have in our galaxy. This spinning causes the planet to bulge in the center as it completes a ‘day’ in only 10 ½ hours.

There are many curious things about Saturn. The rings of Saturn have been a fascination throughout time, glowing in the night sky. We now know that the rings are made up of both very small and extremely large pieces of ice and rock. When the sun reflects on the ice, it gives the rings a magical bright look.  Saturn has a magnetic field that is 578 times that of the earth.

There is another curiosity that scientists have yet to figure out. At Saturn’s North Pole there is a mysterious hexagon shape that is 12,500 km wide. Almost four earths could fit inside this hexagon. No one knows what has caused the shape to be there and thermal images have shown it reaches down nearly 100 km down to near Saturn’s surface.

Many may have their own favorite planet based on color, size or even the number of moons it has. (Saturn has 62 known satellites).  Saturn is by far a favorite to many because of its beautiful rings.  Each time one of the missions cruise by Saturn, they send back some of the most lovely pictures of all of the planets.

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cornell.edu - Nice article