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space The sixth planet from the Sun, Saturn, is the second largest planet in our solar system. Its intricate ring system has fascinated astronomers for centuries. The rings are made of ice and rock particles--some as big as houses--that were probably pieces of comets or asteroids that broke up before they reached the planet.

At least 30 moons orbit Saturn. The largest, Titan, exceeds the size of the planets Mercury or Pluto and wraps itself in a dense, nitrogen-rich atmosphere reminiscent of the early Earth's atmosphere.

Three NASA spacecraft, Pioneer 11, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, flew past Saturn during a span of less than 24 months in 1979-1981, but none have visited the dramatically ringed world since then. The Cassini-Huygens mission, a cooperative endeavor of NASA, the European Space Agency and Italy's space agency, is on its way. When it arrives in 2004, Cassini will go into orbit for an extended study of the Saturnian system and will release the Huygens probe to parachute through Titan's atmosphere in early 2005.

For more information, visit NASA's Solar System Exploration site.

Other Saturn Features:
Blue DotSeven Years to Saturn
Blue DotJewel of the Solar System
Blue DotSpooky Space Sounds
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  Fast Facts - Saturn:

Mean Distance from Sun
1,426,725,400 km (8.87 x 108 miles) or 9.54 astronomical units
120,536 km (74,897.6 miles)
Volume (Earth = 1)
5.69 x 1026 kg (2.01 x 1028 ounces) or 95.2 (Earth = 1)
0.70 gm/cm3
Surface gravity (896 cm/s (2))
1.16 (Earth = 1)
Rotation period (length of day in Earth days)
0.44 (10.2 Earth hours)
Revolution period (length of year)
29.46 Earth years
Mean surface temperature
-139.15 C (-218.47° F)
Natural satellites
Titan is the largest, and the next six in size are Rhea, Iapetus, Dione, Tethys, Enceladus, Mimas. Twenty-three others had been discovered before 2001.

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