• LOCATION 22 | Virtual Solar System Drive: From Narrabri to Siding Spring with Fred Watson

    Approaching Saturn

    [Marnie] The next planet that we're about to come to is Saturn. Saturn is the most beautiful planet - well it is in my mind.

    What do you think Fred?

    FRED] What makes it most notable are the rings made of billions of small chunks of ice and rock coated with another material such as dust. The particles range from tiny, icy grains to lumps as big as a house. What is amazing is how far they reach out from the planet. They are a whopping 282,000 kilometres long that's thousands of times further than our drive today but are just 10 meters thick. That's like a knife-edge souring through the solar system.

    It is not the only planet to have rings, but none are as spectacular or as complex as Saturn's. Like fellow gas giant Jupiter, Saturn is a massive ball made mostly of hydrogen and helium. Its basically one big balloon! If you put ALL of the planet in your bathtub at home, it would float on the top!

    Surrounded by more than 60 known moons, Saturn is home to some of the most fascinating landscapes in our solar system. From the jets of water that spray from Enceladus to the methane lakes on smoggy Titan, the Saturn system is a rich source of scientific discovery and still holds many mysteries.

    Saturn has been known since ancient times and named after the Roman god of agriculture and wealth, who was also the father of Jupiter. It is 9 times wider than Earth and the sixth planet from the Sun. It is the second-largest planet in our solar system. Do you know what the biggest planet is?

    It takes sunlight 80 minutes to travel from the Sun to Saturn, but a day on Saturn takes only 10.7 hours. Some people sleep longer than that! and Saturn makes a complete orbit around the Sun in about 29.4 Earth years

    Saturn is blanketed with clouds that appear as faint stripes, jet streams and storms. Like Earth, Aurorae occur when charged particles spiral into a planet's atmosphere along magnetic field lines. Saturn's north pole is home to a completely unique weather pattern in the solar system. Here you can find a six-sided pattern jet stream of winds travelling 322 kilometres per hour, with a massive, rotating storm at the centre.

    As a gas giant, Saturn doesn’t have a true surface. The planet is mostly swirling gases and liquids deeper down. A spacecraft would have nowhere to land on Saturn and do the extreme pressures and temperatures deep inside the planet, the spacecraft would melt and vaporize as it got to the centre.

    -[Marnie] In a few minutes, you'll take a right-hand turn onto the Oxley Highway. Take care as this is a super busy road with lots of trucks.
    -Very shortly after you turn right, Saturn will be on your left-hand side.

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Virtual Solar System Drive: From Narrabri to Siding Spring with Fred Watson