Saturn, also known as the Ringed Giant for its stunning set of rings, is the third outermost planet in our Solar System. It joins Neptune, Uranus, and Jupiter as one of the giant planets. Giant planets are unimaginably huge, stunningly beautiful, and sometimes a little weird. They are made mostly of gases instead of solid materials.

Saturn By the Numbers

Breaking Down Astronomical Lingo

What is an astronomical unit (AU)? 

One astronomical unit is the distance from the center of the Earth to the center of the Sun, or about 93 million miles (150 million kilometers).

What is a natural satellite? 

A natural satellite is a naturally occurring object that is in orbit around an object in space of a larger size. Earth's natural satellite is the Moon, but many objects in our Solar System have multiple natural satellites. Humans have also created artificial satellites—human-made machines and spacecraft in orbit around our Earth or other objects in our galaxy.


Earth years to orbit the Sun


hours to complete one rotation

9.539 AU

from the Sun


natural satellites

Characteristics of Saturn

Saturn & Jupiter A Gas Giant

The largest planets in our solar system, Saturn and Jupiter are made up mostly of hydrogen and helium. They rotate fast and have strong winds and storms. Because they are so massive, temperatures and pressures deep within them increase to extraordinary levels. Hydrogen takes on a liquid metallic form. The nature of their rocky cores remains a mystery.

Hexagonal Polar Vortex

The Cassini spacecraft took detailed images of Saturn’s oddly shaped north polar vortex through four different filters. Unlike on Earth, where winds blow around the poles in a circular pattern, Saturn’s north polar vortex is shaped like a hexagon! It has persisted for at least many decades.


Saturn has a massive ring system. Seen edge on, Saturn’s thin rings almost seem to disappear. But viewed from above or below, they present a scene of dramatic beauty unique in our solar system. 

Saturn’s rings are made of billions of fragments of mostly ice and some rock. They range in size from dust particles to large boulders. A few bodies may be as large as two-thirds of a mile (one kilometer) across. The rings are named with letters in the order they were discovered. They are separated in places by narrow gaps. The gravity of small nearby moons influences the appearance and structure of the rings. Called shepherding satellites, these tiny moons help form clumps, bends, and braids in the rings.


Saturn has 62 moons. The Voyager spacecraft revealed the moons of the giant planets to be surprisingly diverse worlds in their own right. Further exploration has unveiled intricate surfaces both young and old, volcanoes and impact features, huge plumes and geysers, deep canyons, subsurface oceans, and even clues to possible environments that might be friendly to simple forms of life.

The moons of Jupiter and Saturn are not dead, unchanging worlds. Several show evidence of geologic activity throughout their history. Complex patterns, faulting, cliffs, and deep canyons tell stories of stresses and resurfacing that have shaped and reshaped the terrain. Explore some of Saturn's moons in the gallery below. 

Exploring Saturn's Moons Titan

Saturn's largest moon, Titan, is an ocean world with a dense atmosphere, abundant complex organic material on its icy surface, and a liquid-water ocean in its interior. The Cassini-Huygens mission revealed Titan to be surprisingly Earth-like, with active geological processes and opportunities for organic material to have mixed with liquid water on the surface in the past. These attributes make Titan a unique destination to seek answers to fundamental questions about what makes a planet or moon habitable and about the pre-biotic chemical processes that led to the development of life here on Earth. NASA's upcoming Dragonfly New Frontiers mission is a rotorcraft lander designed to perform long-range in situ investigation of the chemistry and habitability of this fascinating extraterrestrial environment.

Custom Image Caption


Saturn’s moon Iapetus has an odd six-mile (10-kilometer) high bulge circling its equator. Some scientists think its origin may relate to the moon’s early rotational history. Others think it may have formed from the collapse of a ring.

Custom Image Caption


Made of rock and ice, Saturn’s moon Dione is very dense. Bright wispy features extend across its face, cutting through craters. These features are fractures—deep canyons with bright ice exposed along their walls—possibly formed by tidal forces.

Custom Image Caption


An icy moon of Saturn, Enceladus has a bright surface and large areas with few craters. This smoother terrain is young, having been resurfaced in recent geologic time. Deep cracks near the south pole, often called “tiger stripes,” are vents for huge plumes of water vapor. The plumes of Enceladus are fed by a global ocean, 6 miles (10 kilometers) beneath the moon’s icy crust. The existence of this ocean makes Enceladus an intriguing site for the search for life in our solar system.

Custom Image Caption


Saturn’s water-ice moon Mimas was nicknamed “the Death Star moon” for its eerie resemblance to the weapon  in the movie Star Wars. The huge Herschel Crater (William Herschel discovered Mimas)is three miles (five kilometers) deep and a third as wide as the entire moon.

Custom Image Caption


Larger than the planet Mercury, Saturn’s moon Titan is the only moon in our solar system with a substantial atmosphere. Mostly nitrogen and methane, its foggy air blocks Titan’s surface from view. Beneath the haze, long river valleys have been carved by liquid hydrocarbons (methane and ethane) that fill large lakes.

Custom Image Caption


Radar can peer through Titan’s clouds to image the surface below. The dark areas in this Cassini radar image are lakes of hydrocarbons. The big one at the bottom is one-third larger in surface area than Lake Superior, the largest of the Great Lakes.

Visit next closest planet to the Sun
Visit next farthest planet from the Sun