Saturn Fact File


Planetary Fact Files
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This is the sixth planet from the Sun.

Saturn is the second largest planet in our solar system, yet it is the only planet that could float in water (if you had a big enough pool) due to its very low density.

The planet is called a gas giant because it is made up primarily of hydrogen (approx. 94%) and helium (approx. 6%) gases.

Saturn spins so fast on its axis that it is noticeably flattened. One rotation of the planet takes slightly longer than Jupiter at 10 hours 42 minutes. Due to its distance from the sun, it takes 29 Earth years to compete one orbit.

One of the major features of Saturn is its large 'flat' rings. These are made up of bits of ice, dust and rocks, anything between the size of a grain of salt and a house.

So far, we have identified 62 moons around Saturn. The largest is called Titan and is the second largest moon in the solar system. The sixth largest is possibly one of the most amazing discoveries to date - it is called Enceladus and is coated in ice. Recent observations have revealed geysers of water vapour which shows there to be large amounts of liquid water beneath. This makes Enceladus arguably the most likely candidate for alien-life in our solar system.

Saturn is one of the five planets visible to the naked eye as a bright light in the night sky. You will however need a telescope to view the planet and rings.

Saturn and its rings as imaged by the Voyager probe in 1979


There have only been four spacecraft to visit Saturn.

Three of these missions were fly-bys done by probes traveling past. The first was Pioneer 11 in 1979, then Voyager 1 in 1980 and Voyager 2 in 1981.

The last spacecraft to visit was Cassini in 2004 when it entered orbit around the planet to observe it, the rings and moons. This is the probe that discovered the water vapour geysers of Enceladus before crashing into Saturn's atmosphere in 2017.

Cassini also carried a lander probe (called Huygen) that successfully touched down on the surface of Titan - making it the first landing on another planet's moon and the first landing in the outer solar system.

There are currently no launches planned for future missions to Saturn, however there are many proposals being put forward to explore the planet and its moons more thoroughly.


Use the information above to answer these questions:

  1. Why is the discovery of liquid water on Enceladus such big news?
  2. How many Saturn days are in a Saturn year?
  3. We had only landed on one moon before Huygen landed on Titan. Which was this?
  4. Why is the flattening effect of high speed spinning more noticeable on Saturn than Jupiter (which travels faster)?


To check your answers please see the answer sheet. This should only be used after attempting all questions.

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