Tilt of Saturn

by Fraser Cain on July 5, 2008

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Seasons on Saturn. Image credit: Hubble
Saturn couldn’t be more different from Earth; it’s mostly made of hydrogen and helium and has nearly 100 times more mass. And those rings…

You can also check out these cool telescopes that will help you see the beauty of planet Saturn.

But Saturn’s axis is tilted, just like Earth. While Earth’s axis is tilted at an angle of 23.4°, Saturn’s tilt is 26.7°. That’s pretty close.

And just like Earth, Saturn’s axial tilt gives the planet seasons. In fact, we can see Saturn’s tilt by the position of the rings. When Saturn’s northern hemisphere is experiencing summer, we can see the rings at their widest point. And then, as Saturn works its way through its 30-year orbit around the Sun, the angle to the rings decreases until they’re almost invisible – just a line through the planet.

The changing seasons on Saturn also affect the planet’s weather patterns. NASA’s Voyager spacecraft originally clocked wind speeds near Saturn’s equator at nearly 1,500 km/h. But when Cassini showed up 15 years later, they’d slowed down to only 1,100 km/h.

Here’s an article from Universe Today about long term changes on Saturn, and three views of Saturn over a long period of time.

Here’s a nice photograph from Astronomy Picture of the Day of Saturn, and another captured by Cassini, showing the planet’s southern hemisphere being illuminated.

We have recorded two episodes of Astronomy Cast just about Saturn. The first is Episode 59: Saturn, and the second is Episode 61: Saturn’s Moons.

About 

Fraser Cain is the publisher of Universe Today. He's also the co-host of Astronomy Cast with Dr. Pamela Gay.

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