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Exploring Jupiter, Saturn & Mars

Updated: Jun 22

Join us as we explore the last three classical planets – Jupiter, Saturn and Mars!

Together we'll discover the myth of Zeus and Cronus, their epic battle for the throne, and how we name the moons of Jupiter today. Then, we'll create our own ultimate space battle between the three planets we'll learn about!

 

DISCOVER


Fast Facts

  • Saturn is the King of Moons, with a grand total of 82! This includes 53 named moons, as well as another 29 moons awaiting official confirmation and names.

  • While Saturn may boast the most moons, one of Jupiter's moons – Ganymede – is the largest of any moon in our Solar System

  • Mars may appear hot and fiery due to its red surface, but it is much colder than it looks. The average temperature on the Red Planet is –62ºC!

  • Saturn is well known for its rings, but did you know that Jupiter also has many rings surrounding it? They are just faint and harder to see in the sky than Saturn's rings.


Jupiter, Saturn & Mars in Myth

The Battle of the Gods

Did you know that Jupiter is the Roman name for Zeus, the king of the Greek gods? He may be known as the most powerful god, but it was not always this way! Zeus’ father is the Titan god Cronus, who was once the mightiest of all gods. He represents Saturn, the second largest planet in the Solar System.


In Greek mythology, Cronus became afraid of his children, believing that they would become more powerful than him. So he did what you would least expect – he gobbled them up! Zeus survived with the help of his mother, who hid him from Cronus. But as Zeus grew up, he knew he wanted to save his brothers and sisters – who were still alive in Cronus’ stomach!


Zeus devised a plan to free them – he disguised himself and gave his father a special potion which caused him to cough up his children. This started a long battle between father and son, as Cronus and his Titans fought against Zeus and his siblings. After ten long years, Zeus reigned victorious and took his father’s place as the mightiest, the king of Gods!


An attic red figure calyx-krater ca. 430 BCE. The painted scene depicts the Astra Planeta brothers as youths diving into a river in front of the Sun god Helios and his horse-drawn chariot. Source: The British Museum.

Astra Planeta — The Wandering Stars

In ancient Greek mythology, the five planets Mars, Saturn, Jupiter, Mercury and Venus were all believed to be heavenly bodies that moved across the sky differently to the fixed stars and constellations. The Astra Planeta were brothers that represented the classical planets, including Phainon (Saturn), Phaethon (Jupiter), and Pyroeis (Mars).


Psst! Fun fact – you might notice that Uranus, Neptune and Pluto are missing from this planetary quintet (group of five.) This is because they were invisible to the naked eye of the ancients.


To the ancient Greeks, these planets appeared star-like in the sky, but also moved across it! This is how they came to be known as the wandering stars. Did you also know that the word ‘planet’ comes from the Greek word planetes, which means wanderer?


Mars: The Red Planet

The ancient Egyptians were the first to discover that Mars followed an irregular loop in the sky, unlike the other planets. Because of this, they called it the ‘One who travels backward’, or the 'Red One' for its distinct colour.


Jupiter: The Gas Giant

Jupiter is the largest planet in our Solar System, at around 318 times the size of Earth! The planet, together with its rings and moons, forms a satellite system called the Jovian System. Astronomers must follow strict rules when naming Jupiter's moons – as the planet associated with the god Zeus, moons must be named after his descendants or wives in mythology!


Saturn: Moons and Storms

Like Jupiter, Saturn is a gas giant, made mostly of hydrogen and helium. Saturn is one of the furthest planets from Earth in the Solar System. Despite this, the ancient Greeks and Romans could still see Saturn without telescopes, which didn't yet exist. Saturn is best known for its many moons, oval-shaped storms and a hurricane-like vortex in its Southern hemisphere.

 

CREATE

The Ultimate Space Battle

Are you ready to battle it out for the throne of the Solar System? Gather your drawing materials and some paper – it’s time to get crafty!


How to:

  • What do you think would happen if there was an imaginary space battle between the planets Jupiter, Mars and Saturn? Think about how you might draw this.

  • Use the information about the planets in this newsletter to label them with their strengths. Then, decide who wins – would the weight of Jupiter crush Mars, will Saturn call for reinforcements from its mighty moon army, or will the red planet hurl a storm of rocks to shatter Saturn and Jupiter?


Planetary Profiles

If you need a reminder before we charge into battle, check out the below profiles on each planet to help select your mightiest warrior.


Our first contender is Mars! (Associated Greek god: Ares.) He’s known to many ancient civilisations for his bloody red colour. This bright colour is due to the loose dust and rock that cover its surface. Could a storm of dust and rock carry Mars to victory?


Second is Jupiter. (Associated Greek god: Zeus.) As the largest planet in the Solar System, he could easily crush his enemies. He’s about 318 times bigger than Earth, and if you combined all the other planets in our solar system to create a ‘super planet’, Jupiter would still be two and a half times larger. There’s definitely a reason why he's the king of the Gods!


Our last contender is Saturn! (Associated Greek god: Cronus.) He has a mini solar system to himself with 82 moons (possibly more!) at his disposal. With his huge army, he can storm into battle with tactical brilliance, overwhelming his enemies. Just like Cronus and his Titans!


When you've decided on your mightiest warrior, it's time to draw out your space battle on paper!

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