Saturn Compared to Earth – Similarities and Differences

Earth vs Saturn – two fascinating planets. Let’s explore their similarities and differences in depth. We hope to not only satisfy your curiosity about our home planet, but also provide valuable insights into the sixth planet from the sun!

Saturn vs Earth

Let’s start with Earth. We’ll explore Earth’s unique features, such as its size, composition, atmosphere, and more.

Size and Structure

The Earth is classified as a terrestrial planet due to its solid surface composed mainly of rock and metal. The Earth has a diameter of 12,742 kilometers (7,918 miles), ranking it fifth in size among the planets in our solar system.

Layers of Earth:

  • Lithosphere: Rigid outer layer consisting primarily of silicate rocks.
  • Asthenosphere: Plastic-like upper mantle made up mostly of peridotite minerals.
  • Outer Core: Liquid iron-nickel alloy surrounding the inner core.
  • Inner Core: Solid iron-nickel sphere with temperatures reaching up to 5,700°C (10,260°F).

Atmosphere Composition

The atmosphere of Earth is crucial for sustaining life on our planet, supplying oxygen to breathe and shielding us from damaging solar radiation.

Composed mainly of nitrogen (78%) and oxygen (21%), trace amounts (0.04%) of carbon dioxide and other gasses like argon, water vapor, and methane are also present.

Read more: How long would it take to travel to Saturn from Earth?

Atmospheric Layers:

  1. Troposphere: Extends up to 8-15 km (5-9 miles) above the Earth’s surface; contains weather systems.
  2. Stratosphere: Ranges from 15-50 km (9-31 miles); includes the ozone layer which absorbs harmful UV radiation.
  3. Mesosphere: Spans from 50-85 km (31-53 miles); meteors burn up in this layer due to friction with air molecules.
  4. Thermosphere: Stretches from 85-600 km (53-372 miles); temperatures can reach over 2,500°C (4,530°F).
  5. Exosphere: Outermost layer extending beyond thermosphere; merges into interplanetary space.

2. Saturn: An Overview

Saturn, the sixth planet from the Sun, is known for its stunning rings and massive size.


How Big is Saturn Compared to Earth?

Saturn has an impressive diameter of approximately 120,536 kilometers (74,898 miles), making it the second-largest planet in our solar system after Jupiter. Its volume is so vast that about 764 Earth-sized planets could fit inside.

Saturn’s mass is only a tiny fraction of its enormous size, with the total being roughly 95 times that of Earth given its mostly gaseous composition.

Related: What is Saturn’s nickname?

The majority of Saturn’s makeup consists of hydrogen (96%) with a small percentage being helium (3%). The remaining 1% includes trace amounts of methane, ammonia ice crystals as well as water vapor which contribute to the planet’s unique appearance.

Atmosphere and Climate

The atmosphere on Saturn features several layers composed mainly of hydrogen and helium gasses along with some trace elements such as ammonia or water vapor mentioned earlier.

These layers are responsible for creating distinct bands visible across the surface similar to those seen on Jupiter but less pronounced.

  • Troposphere – This layer extends up to around 200 km above the surface where temperatures range between -185°C (-301°F) at cloud tops down towards warmer regions near the core reaching up around +135°C (+275°F).
  • Stratosphere – This layer spans from the troposphere up to around 500 km above Saturn’s surface. It contains trace amounts of hydrocarbons such as ethane and methane, which contribute to its hazy appearance.
  • Thermosphere – the outermost atmospheric layer extending beyond 1,000 km (620 miles) above Saturn’s surface, can reach temperatures up to 800°C (1,472°F).

Saturn experiences powerful storms that are driven by rapid winds reaching speeds of over 1,800 kilometers per hour (1,118 miles per hour). These wind patterns create a banded appearance on the planet’s surface with alternating jet streams moving in opposite directions.

Rings and Moons

The most striking feature of Saturn is undoubtedly its ring system, which consists primarily of ice particles ranging in size from tiny grains to massive chunks several meters across. There are seven main rings designated A through G along with numerous fainter ones discovered more recently.

In addition to its iconic rings, Saturn boasts an impressive collection of at least 83 known moons including Titan – one of the largest moons in our solar system and larger than Mercury.


Comparing Earth and Saturn

In this section, we will compare and contrast the two planets in terms of their size, composition, atmosphere, and other characteristics.

Saturn Size vs Earth

  • Diameter: The diameter of Earth is approximately 12,742 kilometers (7,918 miles), while Saturn’s equatorial diameter is about 120,536 kilometers (74,898 miles). This makes Saturn nearly ten times larger than Earth.
  • Mass: Despite its larger size compared to Earth’s mass at around six septillion kilograms or one trillion pounds; Saturn has a lower density which results in it being only ninety-five times more massive than our planet.

Composition Differences

  • Rings: One significant difference between the two planets is that Saturn’s rings, made primarily of ice particles with some rock debris mixed in, are not found on Earth.
  • Solid vs Gas Giants: Earth belongs to the rocky terrestrial planets group whereas Saturn takes place among gas giants as the sixth planet from the sun. Earth has a hard outer shell made up of rock and metal, while Saturn is composed mainly of hydrogen and helium with no solid exterior.

Atmospheric Differences

  • Dense Atmosphere: Earth’s atmosphere consists mostly of nitrogen (78%) and oxygen (21%), with trace amounts of other gasses. In contrast, Saturn’s dense atmosphere is predominantly composed of hydrogen (96%) and helium (3%), along with traces of methane, ammonia, water vapor, and other compounds.
  • Auroras: Both planets experience auroras caused by solar wind particles interacting with their magnetic fields but they appear differently on each planet due to the differences in atmospheric composition. On Earth, we see greenish-blue hues while Saturn’s auroras are ultraviolet light that can only be seen through special instruments.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the key similarities and differences between Saturn and Earth?

Both Saturn and Earth come with atmospheres, magnetic fields, and seasons.

However, they differ in size, composition, temperature, atmospheric pressure, gravity strength, the number of moons (62 for Saturn vs 1 for Earth), day length (10.7 hours on Saturn vs 24 hours on Earth), and their distance from the Sun (Saturn is about 9 times farther than Earth).

Why is Saturn so different from Earth?

Saturn’s differences stem from its location in the solar system as a gas giant with lower-density materials like hydrogen and helium dominating its composition.

Its lower temperatures and greater distance from the Sun (compared to Earth’s rocky surface & closer proximity to the Sun) result in unique characteristics such as vast ring systems.