upiter has 63 known satellites (as of Feb 2004): the four large Galilean moons plus many more small ones some of which have not yet been named: Jupiter is very gradually slowing down due to the tidal drag produced by the Galilean satellites. Also, the same tidal forces are changing the orbits of the moons, very slowly forcing them farther from Jupiter. Io, Europa and Ganymede are locked together in a 1:2:4 orbital resonance and their orbits evolve together. Callisto is almost part of this as well. In a few hundred million years, Callisto will be locked in too, orbiting at exactly twice the period of Ganymede (eight times the period of Io). Jupiter's satellites are named for other figures in the life of Zeus (mostly his numerous lovers).
Many more small moons have been discovered recently but have not as yet been officially confirmed or named. The most up to date info on them can be found at Scott Sheppard's site.
Distance Radius Mass
Satellite (000 km) (km) (kg) Discoverer Date
--------- --------- --------- --------- --------- ---------
Metis 128 20 9.56e16 Synnott 1979
Adrastea 129 6 1.91e16 Jewitt 1979
Amalthea 181 98 7.17e18 Barnard 1892
Thebe 222 50 7.77e17 Synnott 1979
Io 422 1815 8.94e22 Galileo 1610
Europa 671 1569 4.80e22 Galileo 1610
Ganymede 1070 2631 1.48e23 Galileo 1610
Callisto 1883 2400 1.08e23 Galileo 1610
Leda 11094 8 5.68e15 Kowal 1974
Himalia 11480 93 9.56e18 Perrine 1904
Lysithea 11720 18 7.77e16 Nicholson 1938
Elara 11737 38 7.77e17 Perrine 1905
Ananke 21200 15 3.82e16 Nicholson 1951
Carme 22600 20 9.56e16 Nicholson 1938
Pasiphae 23500 25 1.91e17 Melotte 1908
Values for the smaller moons are approximate. Many more small moons are not listed here. Jupiter's Rings
Distance Radius Mass
Ring (km) (km) (kg)
--------- --------- --------- ---------
Halo 100000 22800 ?
Main 122800 6400 1e13
Gossamer 129200 214200 ?
(Distance is from Jupiter's center to the ring's inner edge) Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun and the second largest
orbit:1,429,400,000 km (9.54 AU) from Sun
diameter: 120,536 km (equatorial)
In Roman mythology, Saturn is the god of agriculture. The associated Greek god, Cronus, was the son of Uranus and Gaia and the father of Zeus (Jupiter). Saturn is the root of the English word "Saturday" Saturn has been known since prehistoric times. Galileo was the first to observe it with a telescope in 1610; he noted its odd appearance but was confused by it. Early observations of Saturn were complicated by the fact that the Earth passes through the plane of Saturn's rings every few years as Saturn moves in its orbit. A low resolution image of Saturn therefore changes drastically. It was not until 1659 that Christiaan Huygens correctly inferred the geometry of the rings. Saturn's rings remained unique in the known solar system until 1977 when very faint rings were discovered around Uranus (and shortly thereafter around Jupiter and Neptune).
Saturn was first visited by NASA's Pioneer 11 in 1979 and later by Voyager 1 and Voyager 2. Cassini (a joint NASA / ESA project) arrived on July 1, 2004 and will orbit Saturn for at least four years.Saturn is visibly flattened (oblate) when viewed through a small telescope; its equatorial and polar diameters vary by almost 10% (120,536 km vs. 108,728 km). This is the result of its rapid rotation and fluid state. The other gas planets are also oblate, but not so much so.Saturn is the least dense of the planets; its specific gravity (0.7) is less than that of water.Like Jupiter, Saturn is about 75% hydrogen and 25% helium with traces of water, methane, ammonia and "rock", similar to the composition of the primordial Solar Nebula from which the solar system was formed.
Saturn's interior is similar to Jupiter's consisting of a rocky core, a liquid metallic hydrogen layer and a molecular hydrogen layer. Traces of various ices are also present.Saturn's interior is hot (12000 K at the core) and Saturn radiates more energy into space than it receives from the Sun. Most of the extra energy is generated by the Kelvin-Helmholtz mechanism as in Jupiter. But this may not be sufficient to explain Saturn's luminosity; some additional mechanism may be at work, perhaps the "raining out" of helium deep in Saturn's interior.
The bands so prominent on Jupiter are much fainter on Saturn. They are also much wider near the equator. Details in the cloud tops are invisible from Earth so it was not until the Voyager encounters that any detail of Saturn's atmospheric circulation could be studied. Saturn also exhibits long-lived ovals and other features common on Jupiter. In 1990, HST observed an enormous white cloud near Saturn's equator which was not present during the Voyager encounters; in 1994 another, smaller storm was observed.
Two prominent rings (A and B) and one faint ring (C) can be seen from the Earth. The gap between the A and B rings is known as the Cassini division. The much fainter gap in the outer part of the A ring is known as the Encke Division (but this is somewhat of a misnomer since it was very likely never seen by Encke). The Voyager pictures show four additional faint rings. Saturn's rings, unlike the rings of the other planets, are very bright (albedo 0.2 - 0.6).
Though they look continuous from the Earth, the rings are actually composed of innumerable small particles each in an independent orbit. They range in size from a centimeter or so to several meters. A few kilometer-sized objects are also likely. Saturn's rings are extraordinarily thin: though they're 250,000 km or more in diameter they're less than one kilometer thick. Despite their impressive appearance, there's really very little material in the rings -- if the rings were compressed into a single body it would be no more than 100 km across.The ring particles seem to be composed primarily of water ice, but they may also include rocky particles with icy coatings.
Voyager confirmed the existence of puzzling radial inhomogeneities in the rings called "spokes" which were first reported by amateur astronomers (left). Their nature remains a mystery, but may have something to do with Saturn's magnetic field.Saturn's outermost ring, the F-ring, is a complex structure made up of several smaller rings along which "knots" are visible. Scientists speculate that the knots may be clumps of ring material, or mini moons.
There are complex tidal resonances between some of Saturn's moons and the ring system: some of the moons, the so-called "shepherding satellites" (i.e. Atlas, Prometheus and Pandora) are clearly important in keeping the rings in place; Mimas seems to be responsible for the paucity of material in the Cassini division, which seems to be similar to the Kirkwood gaps in the asteroid belt; Pan is located inside the Encke Division and S/2005 S1 is in the center of the Keeler Gap. The whole system is very complex and as yet poorly understood.
The origin of the rings of Saturn (and the other jovian planets) is unknown. Though they may have had rings since their formation, the ring systems are not stable and must be regenerated by ongoing processes, perhaps the breakup of larger satellites. The current set of rings may be only a few hundred million years old.Like the other jovian planets, Saturn has a significant magnetic field When it is in the nighttime sky, Saturn is easily visible to the unaided eye. Though it is not nearly as bright as Jupiter, it is easy to identify as a planet because it doesn't "twinkle" like the stars do. The rings and the larger satellites are visible with a small astronomical telescope.