Galileo was the first person to see Saturn through a telescope, in 1610. Saturn does not shine in the night sky as brightly as Jupiter and has a soft, yellowish light. Its makeup is like Jupiter, with an atmosphere of mostly hydrogen and helium and a central rocky core. In the upper atmosphere, there are super-fast winds that reach 500m (1,600 feet) per second. The strongest hurricane-force winds on Earth are only 110m (360 feet) per second.
All four of the gas giants have rings but none are as magnificent as those of Saturn. The nine rings are made up of small rock and ice particles, which were probably generated when the planet was formed or are perhaps the remains of disintegrated moons. Saturn’s ring system extends thousands of kilometres (miles) from the planet but the depth of the main rings is only about 10m (30 feet).
Saturn has at least 62 moons of which only 53 have names. The largest moon, Titan is the only moon in the Solar System to have its own thick, nitrogen-rich atmosphere, which may be like the atmosphere of early Earth. It is possible that Saturn’s second largest moon, Rhea also has a ring system. Many of the other moons are very small with some being less than 10km (6.2 miles) in diameter. All of Saturn’s moons are named after the race of Greek gods called the Titans.
In 1979 Pioneer 11 was the first spacecraft to reach Saturn. In the 1980s, NASA’s Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecraft were the first to discover that Saturn’s rings are mostly made of ice.
Saturn is named after the Roman god of agriculture.