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Storm in Saturn's northern hemisphere, observed in 2011 Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun, and the second largest planet in the Solar System. The space probe Voyager 2 showed that all four gas giants had ring systems, but Saturn’s, visible through even a small telescope from Earth, are broad, bright and magnificent. On the globe of Saturn itself, swirling clouds and storms can sometimes be seen as ripples on its surface, but these are rarer and less dramatic than on Jupiter. Winds can reach 1800 km/h (1100 mph). Saturn rotates very quickly, producing a distinct bulge at its equator. Saturn was later visited by the Cassini space probe, which gathered detailed images and information about the planet and some of its moons between 2004 and 2017.

Saturn, with its major rings, known as A, B and C, labelled.
Rings of Saturn viewed from above

The rings

Three rings can be detected from Earth: the outer ring, A ring, separated from the other two—B ring, the broadest and brightest, and C ring, a fainter band lying inside it—by a gap called the Cassini Division. A faint ring, D, lies inside C, close to Saturn's globe. The narrow, braided F ring lies just outside A. There is another misty band (G) and a broad, extremely faint ring (E) extending some 300,000 kilometres—five times Saturn's radius—beyond the ring system.

Saturn is the least dense of all the planets: if a large enough bathtub could be found, it would float in the water.

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