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  • Saturn's most prominent feature is its gigantic ring system, which is made mostly of ice and carbonaceous dust. The largest ring stretches out almost 200 times the planet's diameter. On average, the rings are only 30 feet thick.

  • saturn rings
    A close-up of Saturn's rings. Mimas and the faint F ring are in the background.
  • Like the other gas giant planets, Saturn has no solid surface. It's also the least dense planet, with one-eigth the density of Earth but 95 times the size.

  • Saturn is composed mostly of hydrogen, which turns metallic near the core. The magnetic field generated by the core is slightly weaker than that of Earth.

  • Saturn has the fastest winds of any planet. They've been clocked at a mind-boggling 1,100 miles per hour.

  • Besides its rings, another of Saturn's most distinctive features is the 15,000 mile wide hexagonal storm at its north pole. The storm could easily fit an Earth or two. The Cassini probe measured the storm's rotation at up to 330 miles per hour.

  • hex storm
    A false color image of Saturn's hexagonal storm.


    Saturn has 62 confirmed moons, the most well-known of which are Titan and Enceladus.

    Titan is the only moon in the solar system with an atmosphere. It is 50& larger than Earth's moon.
  • Titan's atmosphere is composed of a thick haze of nitrogen, methane and ethane. The haze is not efficient at trapping heat radiated back from the surface, Titan experiences an anti-greenhouse effect where more heat is radiated than absorbed. At the same time though, methane is a greenhouse gas and helps trap some of the heat on Titan. Overall, Titan's anti-greenhouse effect is about half as strong as its greenhouse effect. Without the greenhouse effect of the methane, Titan would be much colder than it is now.

  • haze
    Titan's haze as seen by Cassini.
  • Titan's methane and ethane fall as rain and collect into seas, rivers and lakes. Titan is estimated to have hundreds of times more liquid hydrocarbons than Earth.

  • titan lakes titan pole
    On the left: a close-up of ethane-methane lakes on Titan. On the right: Titan's north pole has a large concentration of lakes.
    A view of Titan's surface taken by the Huygens probe.
    NASA is currently considering sending a plutonium-powered submarine to explore the depths of Titan's largest lake, Kraken Mare. The vessel would look at the liquid's chemical composition, undersea geological features, wind and waves, and the potential for life.
    Saturn's large, icy moon Enceladus.
  • Enceladus is thought to have a salty subsurface water ocean at its south pole. Although the moon itself is too cold to have liquid water, it is thought that the ammonia in its thin atmosphere could keep the subsurface water from freezing.

  • plumes
    A water plume emanating from a geyser on Enceladus' south pole. The moon has at least 100 of these geysers. Cassini has detected complex organic molecules in the plumes, suggesting that the ocean could potentially support life. Such life would get energy from molecular hydrogen and/or hydrothermal vents.
    enceladus surface
    A view of Enceladus' surface.

By Aaron Feigenbaum