While Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system, what's the second largest?
And the answer is: Saturn.
Jupiter and Saturn are enormous compared to the other planets in our solar system. Not including its rings, the radius of Saturn is more than twice the size of the next largest planet, Uranus, and almost 10 times the size of Earth.
Named after the Roman god of agriculture and wealth, Saturn has been known to mankind since ancient times. It is the farthest planet from earth to be discovered by the unaided human eye. At 886 million miles from the sun, it takes about 80 minutes for the light from the sun to reach Saturn.
Here are five facts about Saturn that you may not know:
- Saturn has the second-shortest day in the solar system. One day on Saturn takes only about 10.7 hours. Meanwhile, a complete orbit around the sun, or one Saturnian year, takes about 29.4 Earth years (10,576 Earth days). Talk about carpe diem!
- Saturn doesn't have a true surface. As a gas giant, the planet is mostly made up of swirling gasses and liquids. If a spacecraft attempted to land on Saturn, it wouldn't be able to, but it wouldn't be able to fly right through, either. The extreme pressures and temperatures within the planet would vaporize the craft soon after entering.
- Saturn's rings are thought to be pieces of comets, asteroids or shattered moons that broke up before they reached the planet. Saturn's powerful gravity tears these particles apart once they reach its gravity. Though most are small rocks and debris, some particles can be as large as mountains! After being pulled apart, they float around in Saturn's rings covered in dust and ice. Interestingly, each ring orbits around Saturn at a different speed.
- Saturn's north pole has a hexagon-shaped jet stream. This interesting phenomenon was first discovered by the Voyager I and has since been closely studied. Spanning about 20,000 miles, the hexagon is a wavy jet stream of 200 miles-per-hour winds with a rotating center. This phenomenon is like no other in the solar system!
- Saturn is the only planet in our solar system with an average density that is less than water. Meaning, if there were a bathtub to fit Saturn's massive size, Saturn would float.