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Modern Space Exploration: Saturn

Revitalizing interest and excitement in humankind’s “final frontier”. Assisting students in scientific inquiry, promoting a love of science, and encouraging interest in STEM careers.

Saturn

                                                                

Saturn: Facts About the Ringed Planet

Significant Events

  • ~700 BCE: The oldest written records documenting Saturn are attributed to the AssyriansThey described the ringed planet as a sparkle in the night and named it "Star of Ninib."
  • ~400 BCE: Ancient Greek astronomers name what they think is a wandering star in honor of Kronos, the god of agriculture. The Romans later change the name to Saturn, their god of agriculture.
    Illustration of an ancient bearded god.
    Cassini: Unveiling the Myth poster. Credit: NASA / Jet Propulsion Laboratory - Caltech / Academia de Arte Yepes
  • July 1610: Galileo Galilei spots Saturn's rings through a telescope, but mistakes them for a "triple planet."
  • 1655: Christiaan Huygens discovers Saturn's rings and its largest moon, Titan.
  • 1675: Italian-born astronomer Jean-Dominique Cassini discovers a "division" between what are now called the A and B rings.
  • Sept. 1, 1979: Pioneer 11 is the first spacecraft to reach Saturn. Among Pioneer 11's many discoveries are Saturn's F ring and a new moon.
  • 1980 and 1981: In its 1980 flyby of Saturn, Voyager 1 reveals the intricate structure of the ring system, consisting of thousands of ringlets. Flying even closer to Saturn in 1981, Voyager 2 provides more detailed images and documents the thinness of some of the rings.
  • July 1, 2004: NASA's Cassini spacecraft becomes the first to orbit Saturn, beginning a decade-long mission that revealed many secrets and surprises about Saturn and its system of rings and moons.
  • Jan. 14, 2005: The European Space Agency's Huygens probe is the first spacecraft to make a soft landing on the surface of another planet's moon — Saturn's giant moon Titan. The probe provides the first direct study of Titan's atmosphere and the first-and-only direct images of Titan's surface, which is shrouded by thick
  • Sept. 17, 2006: Scientists discover a new ring. The ring coincides with the orbits of Saturn's moons Janus and Epimetheus. Images taken during a solar occultation that backlit the planet revealed the new ring.
  • 2009: NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope reveals the presence of a gigantic, low density ring associated with Saturn’s distant moon Phoebe.
  • Sep. 15, 2017: Cassini ends a 13-year orbital mission with a spectacular, planned plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere — sending science data back to the last second. Cassini’s final five orbits enable scientists to directly sample Saturn’s atmosphere for the first time

 

“Exploration.” NASA, NASA, 22 July 2019, solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/saturn/exploration/?

 

Saturn Facts

Quick Facts

Day
10.7 hours

Year
29 Earth years

Radius
36,183.7 miles | 58,232 kilometers

Planet Type
Gas giant

Moons
53 confirmed | 29 provisional