Friday, October 5, 2012

31 Days of Planets: Saturn

Day 2: Saturn

Saturn is the 6th planet from the sun. If there were three Saturns, that would be 666 and probably the end of the universe. Saturn's radius is NINE TIMES Earth's. Saturn + Jupiter make up 92% of the total planetary mass in the solar system.

Saturn's defining characteristic is the system of rings that swoop so elegantly around the giant gaseous ball. The rings are probably hundreds of millions of years old, and are made up of ice and dust and a few moonlets. 62 moons orbit Saturn, with Titan the most well-known, but only 53 of the moons are named. They say that some of the moons act as Sheppard moons, and herd the rings to keep them in place, to keep them from expanding outwards. I like to think that those moons are alive, and so are the rocks and dust and moonlets - like a herd of sheep and some sheepdogs flying thousands of miles an hour around the beautifully gaseous and ringed planet.

And this is what Saturn would look like if you stuck it in a fire for a while (this is a real picture, though):

Hypothetically, if you were to have a Saturn-like planet, and then a giant asteroid (we're talking GIANT here) came and smashed the planet out of the rings, could the particles, etc. form to create a donut-shaped planet? Or would they all converge down to the center? Or would the energy resulting from the impact send everything flying outward towards space?

In conclusion, Saturn is awesome.

(Pictures from NASA)

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