How many confirmed moons does Saturn have?

Saturn has 82 moons. Fifty-three moons are confirmed and named and another 29 moons are awaiting confirmation of discovery and official naming. Saturn's moons range in size from larger than the planet Mercury — the giant moon Titan — to as small as a sports arena. 

Most of these moons are small, icy bodies that are little more than parts of its impressive ring system. In fact, 34 of the moons that have been named are less than 10 km in diameter while another 14 are 10 to 50 km in diameter. However, some of its inner and outer moons are among the largest and most dramatic in the Solar System, measuring between 250 and 5000 km in diameter and housing some of greatest mysteries in the Solar System.

Saturn’s moons have such a variety of environments between them that you’d be forgiven for wanting to spend an entire mission just looking at its satellites. From the orange and hazy Titan to the icy plumes emanating from Enceladus, studying Saturn’s system gives us plenty of things to think about. Not only that, the moon discoveries keep on coming. As of April 2014, there are 62 known satellites of Saturn (excluding its spectacular rings, of course). Fifty-three of those worlds are named.

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Which is the predominant gas found in Saturn?

Saturn is predominantly composed of hydrogen and helium, the two basic gases of the universe. The planet also bears traces of ices containing ammonia, methane, and water. Unlike the rocky terrestrial planets, gas giants such as Saturn lack the layered crust-mantle-core structure, because they formed differently from their rocky siblings.

Saturn is classified as a gas giant because it is almost completely made of gas. Its atmosphere bleeds into its "surface" with little distinction. If a spacecraft attempted to touch down on Saturn, it would never find solid ground. Of course, the craft would be fortunate to survive long before the increasing pressure of the planet crushed it.

Because Saturn lacks a traditional ground, scientists consider the surface of the planet to begin when the pressure exceeds one bar, the approximate pressure at sea level on Earth.

At higher pressures, below the determined surface, hydrogen on Saturn becomes liquid. Traveling inward toward the center of the planet, the increased pressure causes the liquefied gas to become metallic hydrogen. Saturn does not have as much metallic hydrogen as the largest planet, Jupiter, but it does contain more ices. Saturn is also significantly less dense than any other planet in the solar system; in a large enough pool of water, the ringed planet would float.

As on Jupiter, the liquid metallic hydrogen drives the magnetic field of Saturn. Saturn's magnetosphere is smaller than its giant sibling, but still significantly more powerful than those found on the terrestrial planets. With a magnetosphere large enough to contain the entire planet and its rings, Saturn's magnetic field is 578 times as powerful as Earth's.

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What are Saturn’s rings made of?

Saturn's rings are made of billions of pieces of ice, dust and rocks. Some of these particles are as small as a grain of salt, while others are as big as houses. These chucks of rock and ice are thought to be pieces of comets, asteroids or even moons which were torn apart by the strong gravity of Saturn before they could reach the planet.

Galileo Galilei was the first to see Saturn's rings in 1610, although from his telescope the rings looked more like handles or arms. Forty five years later, in 1655, Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens, who had a more powerful telescope, later proposed that Saturn had a thin, flat ring.

As scientists developed better instruments, they continued to learn more about the structure and composition of the rings. Saturn actually has many rings made of billions of particles of ice and rock, ranging in size from a grain of sugar to the size of a house. The particles are believed to be debris left over from comets, asteroids or shattered moons. A 2016 study also suggested the rings may be the carcasses of dwarf planets.

The largest ring spans 7,000 times the diameter of the planet. The main rings are typically only about 30 feet (9 meters) thick, but the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft revealed vertical formations in some of the rings, with particles piling up in bumps and ridges more than 2 miles (3 km) high.

The rings are named alphabetically in the order they were discovered. The main rings, working out from the planet, are known as C, B and A. The innermost is the extremely faint D ring, while the outermost to date, revealed in 2009, is so big that it could fit a billion Earths within it. The Cassini Division, a gap some 2,920 miles (4,700 km) wide, separates rings B and A.

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What is CHAPEA?

If humans were to set up home on another planet, scientists say. Mars is our best bet. The interest in sending humans to Mars has never been greater, as many space agencies-private and government-funded - are developing their own human spaceflight to Mars. The U.S. space agency NASA is developing the capabilities needed to send humans to the Red Planet in the 2030s. While Russia plans to send humans in the 2040s, China hopes to do so by 2033. The UAE. a new entrant to space exploration, plans to put a human settlement on Mars within the next 100 years. Mars One and SpaceX also have their eyes set on Mars in the coming decades.

But the question is ‘What is it like to live on Mars?’ To answer that scientists have been recreating Mars-like habitats on Earth! Called Mars analogue habitats, they help prepare astronauts, engineers, and researchers for the future challenges of sending a crewed mission to the Red Planet

NASA has recently set up similar facilities called CHAPEA (short for Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog) inside its Johnson Space Center in Houston and has invited volunteers with certain qualifications to become crew members at these habitats. What's CHAPEA? What's its purpose?

CHAPEA is a series of analogue missions that will simulate year-long stays on the surface of Mars. Each mission will consist of four crew members living in Mars Dune Alpha, an isolated 1.700 square foot habitat. According to the NASA website, the 3D printed habitat will include private crew quarters, a kitchen, and dedicated areas for medical, recreation, fitness, work, and crop growth activities, as well as a technical work area and two bathrooms. Such a 3D-printed home has been prefered because it is likely that future habitats used during space exploration on Mars will be 3D-printed to prevent the need for launching large, heavy building materials.

What will the CHAPEA crew members do?

During the mission, the crew will conduct simulated spacewalks and provide data on a variety of factors, which may include physical and behavioural health and performance. They will consume ready-to-eat space food and will try to grow plants. The paid volunteers will try to survive with limited communications back home, restricted resources and equipment failures. Exercising, hygiene activities, maintenance work and science work are some of the other activities planned for the volunteers.

What is the purpose of this analogue?

Researchers will analyse the social and teamwork dynamics of the crew. The programme will be critical in understanding how trained individuals will perform under the rigours and pressures of a Mars mission.

Specifically, it will not only highlight operational challenges, but will also illuminate the physical and mental health challenges that future astronauts may encounter in long-duration space missions.

When will the project begin?

NASA is planning three of these experiments with the first one starting in the fall next year (September 2022).

Where were some of the past Mars analogue habitats located?

  • The Mars Society, a space advocacy group established the Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station (FMARS) in 2000 in the territory of Nunavut, Canada. FMARS Crew 11 remained in the Martian simulation for 100 days.
  • It set up its second habitat in Utah, whose crew members focussed on conducting field research in simulated Martian conditions.
  • The Mars-500 mission was a series of experiments conducted between 2007 and 2011 and sponsored by Russia, the European Space Agency, and China. Unlike other Mars Analog missions, Mars-500 did not take place in a Mars-like environment, but in a Moscow research institute. An important focus of the Mars-500 research was the diagnosis of "adverse personal dynamics” which would affect cooperation among the crew.

How I can humans live on Mars, if they were to settle there?

Compared to other planets, Mars has its advantages when it comes to human habitation. It is the closest planet to Earth. Its soil contains water and there is enough sunlight to use solar panels Human body can adapt to the gravity on Mars, which is 38% that of Earth's, and day-length in Mars is similar to that of Earth. However, humans cannot live on Mars like they do on Earth

 

Mars has no oxygen in its atmosphere and it is very cold on its surface - the average temperature of Earth is about 50 degrees Fahrenheit, while the average temperature on Mars is minus 100 degrees Fahrenheit. There's also virtually no air pressure. Mars temperature variations often result in powerful dust storms. Though these storms probably wouldn't physically harm us, the dust could dog electronics and interfere with solar powered instruments.

So, to survive on Mars, humans will need special equipment and pressurised and heated habitats. The habitats are to be self-sustaining sealed against the thin atmosphere, and capable of supporting life for extended periods of time. Humans will also need a spacesuit whenever they go outside the habitat. Despite wearing a suit, radiation from space could ham the human settlers.

For a longer stay, humans will have to figure out how to extract water from underground supplies, and how to produce their own food Scientists believe that we could sustain life there by producing food under artificial light and growing genetically modified plants Space companies are already designing prototypes of habitation humans will need to survive on Mars.

Here are some of the basic facts that astronomers have learnt about the planet over the years.

  • Mars, the fourth planet from the Sun in the Solar System, is an icy desert. It has two moons Phobos and Deimos.
  • It is half the size of Earth, and gets its name the Red Planet because iron minerals in its soil oxidise or rust thereby making its surface and atmosphere look red.
  • One Martian year is 687 Earth days.
  • Mars has seasons and weather patterns. It has polar ice caps, canyons and even dead volcanoes. It has a very thin atmospheric layer.
  • Mars, at the farthest point of its orbit, is about 400 million kilometres, from Earth, and 55 million kilometres at the nearest point.

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Which is the only planet which is not named after a God?

Earth is the only planet not named after a Roman god or goddess, but it is associated with the goddess Terra Mater (Gaea to the Greeks). In mythology, she was the first goddess on Earth and the mother of Uranus. 

 The name Earth comes from Old English and Germanic. It is derived from “eor(th)e” and “ertha,” which mean “ground.” Other civilizations all over the world also developed terms for our planet.

Mars is named after the Roman god of war. The planet got its name from the fact that it is the color of blood.  Other civilizations also named the planets for its red color.

Jupiter was the Roman king of the gods. Considering that Jupiter is the largest planet in our Solar System, it makes sense that the planet was named after the most important god.

Saturn was named after the Roman god of agriculture and harvest. While the planet may have gotten its name from its golden color, like a field of wheat, it also had to do with its position in the sky. According to mythology, the god Saturn stole the position of king of the gods from his father Uranus. The throne was then stolen by Jupiter.

Uranus was not discovered until the 1800’s, but the astronomers in that time period continued the tradition of naming planets after Roman gods. In mythology, Uranus was the father of Saturn and was at one time the king of the gods.

While Neptune almost ended up being named after one of the astronomers credited with discovering it – Verrier – that was greatly disputed, so it was named after the god of the sea. The name was probably inspired by its blue color.

Pluto is no longer a planet, but it used to be. The dark, cold, former planet was named after the god of the underworld. The first two letters of Pluto are also the initials of the man who predicted its existence, Percival Lowell.

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