Is there any precipitation on Saturn?


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Samuel Chiltern answered
Yes, there is precipitation (rain) on Saturn. But it isn't made from water, like the rain on our planet - it's made from helium instead.

What Causes the Rain on Saturn?
The phenomenon of rain on Saturn is known as helium precipitation. This process works when helium condenses to a liquid in the upper layers of the atmosphere, and forms a mist.

These helium droplets then 'rain down' towards the interior, which is similar to how water behaves on Earth, and is a continuous process that has been going on for the past 2 billion years or so.

As the helium passes through the denser liquid 'surface' of Saturn, it generates friction.

This process is believed to be the source of the planet's heat output, and also the explanation as to why Saturn has so much less helium than Jupiter. Without this process of 'warming' rain, Saturn would be very cold indeed, since it receives only one per cent of the sunlight that reaches Earth.

Saturn is smaller than Jupiter, and would have cooled much more quickly after its formation, having used up its smaller original source of energy more quickly.

In fact, Saturn's cooler internal temperature is what causes these rain droplets and mist to form, whereas, on Jupiter, liquid helium dissolves into liquid hydrogen more easily, without forming droplets.

The rain won't last forever, however. As the helium in the outer layers is used up, the process will produce less heat, and Saturn will cool down. Eventually, it's possible that the interior will become cool enough for the process to begin again, and so the planet will heat up once more.

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