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Saturn, the second-largest planet in the Solar System and the sixth in order of distance from the Sun. It is known since ancient times, being (along with Mercury, Venus, Mars, and Jupiter) one of the five planets visible to the naked eye.

The period of its motion of revolution around the Sun is 29.46 years; the internal rotation period is 10h39m24s. It has a diameter of 126,660 kilometers (9.5 times that of Earth).

Saturn was visited for the first time in 1979 by Pioneer XI probe and within two years from the Voyager I (1980) and Voyager II (1981), which provided partial data on the planet’s characteristics because they were confined to the passages in the vicinity it then continues their journey. Since July 2004 has been in orbit around Saturn Cassini-Huygens probe that has resulted in detailed images of the surface. In December 2004, the Huygens probe detached from the Cassini mother probe is directed towards the main satellite of Saturn, Titan, penetrating in its atmosphere has provided important data on the composition and surface images.

Saturn has a chemical composition similar to that of Jupiter: both planets consist mainly of hydrogen, as indicated by the fact that their representative points in the mass-density plot fall very close to the curve that corresponds to a composition of pure hydrogen.

After hydrogen, the most abundant element on Saturn, like Jupiter, is helium. Saturn’s structure would not be substantially different from that of Jupiter unless a complete differentiation of the inner layers. At the center of the planet, where it will probably reach temperatures of ~15.000 K, there would be a rocky core of silicates and metals, surrounded by a shell of icy materials. Saturn, like Jupiter, radiates in the form of infrared radiation, about twice the energy it receives from the sun. It is thought that this planet is heated by a conversion of gravitational energy into heat energy, but the processes that are invoked are different from those in place in Jupiter. The rings were observed for the first time in 1610 by Galileo, which, however, given the low magnification of the telescope at its disposal, it confused with the satellites.

C. Huygens was, in 1656, to recognize that the planet was surrounded by a ring. The observation of their thermal emission, the infrared wavelengths, revealed that consisted mainly of water ice, while the analysis of radar echoes indicated that, at least in large part, were to be larger than 1 cm.



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Saturn, the second-largest planet in the Solar System.