Saturn is the second largest planet in the Solar System and the sixth planet from the Sun. The planet is a gas giant, along with Jupiter, meaning that it is primarily composed of hydrogen and helium. The large planet has a radius that is roughly nine times the radius of Earth, and is notable for its large ring system that is made up of ice particles, rocks, and dust. Saturn is orbited by 62 identified moons, and a total of 56 have been named. Additionally, Saturn is the furthest planet that is visible to the naked eye from Earth, and was first observed in prehistoric times.
History of Saturn
Humans have been aware of Saturn and other inner planets since prehistoric times, although its earliest recorded history can be traced to Babylonian astronomers who observed and recorded its movements on Sumerian clay tablets which date back to between 3500 BC and 3200 BC. The Babylonian astronomers had observed the five planets, and named them after gods of their mythology: Mercury was known as Nabu; Venus was known as Ishtar; Mars was known as Nergal; Jupiter was known as Marduk; and Saturn was known as Ninurta. Additionally, the ancient Greeks referred to Saturn as Phainon.
Origin of Saturn's Name
Roman astronomers who had knowledge of the five planets, as well as the Sun and Moon, are credited with giving Saturn its name. The Romans named planets after their most significant gods, and named Saturn after the god of wealth and agriculture. Additionally, Saturn was the father of Jupiter, and later became known as the god of time. In ancient Greece, the equivalent god of agriculture was Cronus, who was the father of both Jupiter and Zeus. All planets in the Solar System are named after Roman or Greek gods, except Earth. The same tradition was followed when the other planets of the Solar System were discovered, despite the fact that the same mythical gods were no longer revered in the same way.
Interesting Facts About Saturn
Saturn is roughly nine times wider than Earth, with a radius of 36,183.7 miles. To put this difference in perspective, if Earth was the size of a nickel, then Saturn would be the size of a volleyball. Saturn is located 890.8 million miles from the Sun, and light from the Sun takes about 80 minutes to reach the planet. The planet spins on its axis once every 10.7 hours, which is the second shortest day of any planet in the Solar System, but it takes 29.4 years for Saturn to orbit the Sun. The axis of Saturn is tilted 26.7 3o, which is almost the same tilt as Earth. As a result of these similar tilts, Saturn also experiences seasons like Earth.
About the Author
Benjamin Elisha Sawe holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Statistics and an MBA in Strategic Management. He is a frequent World Atlas contributor.
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