What would you see if you fell into Saturn?

Saturn is the second largest planet in the solar system and is well known for its prominent ring system. Since it is a gas giant, it does not have a surface to land. Saturn’s structure can be divided into three parts: the gaseous atmosphere, the liquid mantle and the solid core.

A person falling into Saturn would continue falling until he reaches the planet’s solid core. The conditions (temperature and pressure) in Saturn’s upper atmosphere are less severe. However, they start getting worse as you start going deeper into the planet.

Therefore, make sure to wear an appropriate spacesuit that has enough oxygen supply and which is able to protect you from the extreme temperature and pressure conditions inside the planet.

The atmosphere of Saturn mainly comprises of hydrogen and helium. The pale yellow color of the planet is because of the ammonia crystals in Saturn’s upper atmosphere. The temperature in Saturn’s upper atmosphere is around 100 to 160 Kelvin (-173 to -113 degree Celcius) with pressure ranging from 0.5 to 2 bar (Earth’s atmospheric pressure at the sea level is around 1.01 bar).

If you look back at the sky during your journey in Saturn’s upper atmosphere, the sky would appear blue in color. You would even see Saturn’s rings in the sky.

As you fall deeper into Saturn, the pressure would start increasing. Saturn’s gaseous atmosphere is not much deep. It extends to a depth of about 1000 km while the planet’s mean radius is about 58,000 km. Since the amount of light that penetrates Saturn’s atmosphere decreases with depth, your surroundings would start getting darker. (Lets assume that your helmet has a torch that gives a complete vision of your surroundings during the entire journey.)

In the bottom-most region of Saturn’s atmosphere, the pressure would rise to about 10 to 20 bar. Saturn has some of the fastest winds in the solar system. Its atmosphere is very active and wind speeds can reach as high as 500 m/s. Floating in Saturn’s winds would be fun but very dangerous!

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI

Once the gaseous atmosphere ends, the pressure in Saturn’s outer mantle would start compressing gaseous hydrogen inside Saturn to liquid hydrogen (saturated with helium). Saturn’s outer mantle (comprised of helium saturated liquid hydrogen) extends to a great depth.

By the time you make it to this part of Saturn’s interior, the pressure might have already crushed you (and your spacesuit). But let us assume that your spacesuit is very strong and you continue to fall deeper.

Image: Kelvinsong, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

As you fall deeper, the liquid hydrogen layer would end and the metallic hydrogen layer would begin. Saturn’s core is surrounded by a weird metallic hydrogen layer in which hydrogen exists in the metallic form and starts conducting electricity.

This layer would have unfathomably high temperature and pressure. The electric currents flowing in Saturn’s metallic hydrogen layer are responsible for the planet’s powerful magnetic field.

Image: NASA/JPL

The final layer of Saturn that you’ll encounter is its solid core which is similar in composition to Earth. When you reach the core, you would have traveled a distance of about 45,000 km inside Saturn’s deadly interior.

Saturn’s core is very hot. It has a temperature of about 11,700 degrees Celcius, twice as hot as Sun’s surface. Similar to other gas giants, diamond rains are expected to occur even inside Saturn.

Saturn is a beautiful looking planet from the outside but falling into it might be the last thing you’d want to do!

Advertisements

One thought on “What would you see if you fell into Saturn?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s