West, Robert A. Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California.
Last reviewed:February 2019
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- Internal structure and radiation belts
- Ring system
- Links to Primary Literature
- Additional Readings
The second largest planet in the solar system and the sixth in order of distance from the Sun. The outermost planet known prior to 1781 CE, Saturn is surrounded by a system of rings far more extensive than any other in the solar system (Fig. 1), as well as more than 60 moons, and a complex magnetosphere. Despite the planet's huge size, its mean density is so low that it could float in water. Saturn's largest moon, Titan, is the only satellite in the solar system with a dense atmosphere and the only other body, besides Earth, with stable liquid on its surface. This distant planetary system has been visited by four spacecraft: Pioneer 11 in 1979, Voyagers 1 and 2 in 1980–1981, and Cassini-Huygens from 2004 to 2017. The first three were flybys; the last was a joint United States–European mission consisting of a Saturn orbiter and a probe into the atmosphere of Titan. See Table 1 for planetary and orbital characteristics of Saturn. See also: Completion of the Cassini mission to Saturn; Density; Satellite (astronomy); Space probe; Titan; Solar system; Water
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