Saturn (enhanced colors)

Saturn (enhanced colors) thumbnail


Saturn was the only known ringed planet until 1977 when faint rings were detected around Uranus. Saturn is probably best known for its spectacular rings, but Saturn has many other unique features. Saturn is actually not a spherical planet. Most of the gas planets, in fact, flatten slightly and become oblate due to their rapid rotation. This characteristic is most pronounced on Saturn, where the equatorial diameter can be as much as 10% longer than its polar diameter. This variability in Saturn's diameter is due to its gassy composition of 75% hydrogen, 25% helium with traces of water, methane, ammonia, and rock. Saturn has a small rocky core, then a layer of liquid metallic hydrogen and a layer of molecular hydrogen.

Like Jupiter and the other gas planets, Saturn has a banded appearance in its coloration due to high winds in the atmosphere. The bands are not as distinct as those on Jupiter, however, they are very wide at the equator and easy to detect. Another similarity to Jupiter is the storms that are visible on Saturn's surface in the form of white or red ovals. However, none of these storms seem to be as long-lived as the Great Red Spot on Jupiter. Saturn also has distinctive storms producing more turbulent looking white clouds that appear on occasion.This view of Saturn has slightly enhanced colors and contrast to bring out color variations as well as the white cloud storm features.

Notable Features

  • Banded appearance due to fast moving winds
  • Wide bands at the equator
  • Storms that appear as ovals in the bands

Related Datasets