This image of Saturn was taken by Voyager I in 1980
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of NASA
Like the inner planets and Jupiter, Saturn is clearly visible in the night sky. The ancient Greeks named the planet after the god of agriculture and time. It wasn't until 1655, however, that we knew Saturn had rings. Galileo saw two lumps on either side of Saturn, be he didn't know what they were. The astronomer Christian Huygens later found out they were rings.
Much of what we now know about the second largest planet in our solar system comes from the Voyager spacecrafts. Voyager took close-up pictures of Saturn and its rings. They clearly show the large gaps in between the rings, called the Cassini Division and Encke Division.
Recently, a lot of research has been devoted to Saturn's moons. Huygens discovered Saturn's largest moon, Titan, in 1655. Six other satellites were discovered by various astronomers before 1800. Many smaller moons were found by the Voyager spacecraft.
Cassini is the newest mission to Saturn. If all goes as planned, it will reach the planet in 2004. Cassini will study Saturn and its largest moon, Titan.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Our online store
includes issues of NESTA's quarterly journal, The Earth Scientist
, full of classroom activities on different topics in Earth and space science, as well as books
on science education!
You might also be interested in:
The rare arrangement of planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune in the 1980's made it possible for the Voyager spacecrafts to visit them over a 12 year span instead of the normal 30. They used gravity...more
Like the inner planets and Jupiter, Saturn is clearly visible in the night sky. The ancient Greeks named the planet after the god of agriculture and time. It wasn't until 1655, however, that we knew Saturn...more
The dramatic appearance of Saturn stems mainly from the spectacular rings. The atmosphere looks much less dramatic. The clouds of Saturn are much less colorful than those of Jupiter. This is because the...more
The Giant planets do not have the same layered structure that the terrestrial planets do. Their evolution was quite different than that of the terrestrial planets, and they have less solid material. Saturn's...more
Many people like Saturn's rings. Although Saturn isn't the only planet with rings, it is the only planet famous for them. Almost every image or drawing of the planet has the rings included. But few people...more
Saturn's magnetosphere is not as big as Jupiter's, but it is still pretty big. It is big enough to hold all of Saturn's moons. It is probably made the same way as is Jupiter's, which affects its overall...more
There's a lot of strange and interesting stuff going on at both the North and South Poles of Saturn. Two of Saturn's moons also have interesting polar regions. Let's take a look! The atmosphere and clouds...more