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Last updated: 08 May 2006 1138 BST
Pic: Mark Lawrik-Thompson
Grap: Explore Saturn with our astronomy expert
Norfolk astronomer and Chairman of the Norwich Astronomical Society Mark Thompson writes about Saturn.
Picture: Saturn
Saturn is the sixth planet from the sun and is a big ball of gas

Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun.

Find out more with our kids' guide to astronomy by local astronomer Mark Thompson

Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun and is probably the most well known of all the planets. One of the reasons why so many people know the planet is because it has a really pretty set of rings.

The pictures on this page shows how Saturn looks through a big telescope; you can easily see the rings. I'm sure you have seen the Moon in the night sky.

The rings around Saturn are made up of millions and millions of tiny pieces of rock, all moving around the planet in the same way the Moon moves around the Earth.

Because they are so small and there are so many of them, they look like solid rings, but there are gaps inside the rings. You can also see this in our pictures.

Saturn's moons

As well as the bits of rock making up the rings, Saturn also has some much larger moons. The last time we looked, there were 31 moons but we will probably find more as telescopes get better.

Saturn, like Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune, is made up of gas instead of being solid like the Earth.

The Earth and other planets all have a hard surface that we can walk and run around on. Saturn doesn't. What we see when we look at Saturn is the top of a big ball of gas.

Because Saturn is made up of gasses, it is really light. In fact it is so light that if it was put in water, it would float. Imagine having Saturn floating in your bath!

Picture: How to spot Saturn
The arrow is pointing to the north star

How to find Saturn in the sky

Now you know all about Saturn, you may want to find it in the sky.

All you need to do, is go outside and take a look in the sky looking south east.

To do this, go outside with an adult you know and find the shape of stars called the Plough.

These are part of a much larger group of stars called Ursa Major (see the picture on the left). The Plough actually looks more like a saucepan than a plough!

Once you have found them, follow the two stars at the end, shown in the diagram and they will point you to the North Pole Star.

This star lies North, so having found that, turn round so you are looking in the opposite direction, then turn right a little.

You will see a star shining brightly - this is not a star but Saturn.

If you have a telescope, try pointing it at the planet and see if you can find the rings. Good luck.

Got a question on Saturn? Ask our astronomy expert, Mark »


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See also

On this site

Astronomy index

Ask the astronomer

International Space Station

Make a rocket

Make a sundial

New Planet

Planet Jupiter

Planet Mars

The Moon

Planets Pluto, Neptune and Uranus

Planet Saturn

Planet Venus

The Star of Bethlehem

The Sun

Your questions answered

Venus passes in front of the Sun


BBC Space

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On the rest of the web

Norwich Astronomical Society

Breckland Astronomical Society

North Norfolk Astronomical Society

NASA for kids

Inspire Science Centre

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