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Space Station Info :: Nine Planet Solar System :: Saturn :: Physical Characteristics of Saturn

Physical Characteristics of Saturn

Physical Characteristics of Saturn

Saturn's shape is perceptibly flattened at the poles and bulging at the equator (an oblate spheroid) its equatorial and polar diameters vary by almost 10% (120,536 km vs. 108,728 km). This is the result of its rapid rotation and juicy state. The other gas planets are also oblate, but to a lesser degree. Saturn is also the only one of the Solar Systems planets less dense than water, with an average specific density of 0.69. This is only an average value, however; Saturn's upper atmosphere is fewer dense and its core is significantly denser than water.

Saturn's interior is like that of Jupiter's, having a rocky core at the center, a liquid metallic hydrogen layer above that, and a molecular hydrogen layer above that. Traces of various ices are also present. Saturn has a very hot interior, reaching 12000 K at the core, and it radiates more energy into space than what it receives from the Sun. Most of the extra energy is generated by the Kelvin-Helmholtz mechanism, but this alone may not be sufficient to explain Saturn's heat production.

A further proposed mechanism by which Saturn may generate some of its heat is the "raining out" of droplets of helium deep in Saturn's interior, the droplets of helium releasing heat by friction as they reduce down through the lighter hydrogen.

Saturn's temperature emissions, the well-known hot spot at the foot of the image is right at Saturn's south-pole. Saturn's atmosphere exhibits a banded outline comparable to Jupiter's, but Saturn's bands are much fainter and they're also much wider near the equator. Saturn's cloud patterns were not observed awaiting for the Voyager flybys. Since ten, however, Earth-based telescopy has improved to the point where regular explanation can be made. Saturn exhibits long-standing ovals and other features common on Jupiter; in 1990 the Hubble Space Telescope observed a vast white cloud near Saturn's equator which was not in crowd during the Voyager encounters and in 1994 another, smaller storms was experimental. Astronomers using infrared imaging have shown that Saturn has a warm polar vortex, and is the only planet in the solar system identified to do so.

Also see about

Saturn
Physical Characteristics
Saturn Rotation and Revolution
History Of Saturn
Physical Characteristics Of Ring
Exploration Of Saturn
Saturn's Moons