Saturn vs Europa (How Are They Different?)

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The main differences between Saturn and Europa would be that Saturn is a yellow ringed gas giant that orbits the Sun whilst Europa orbits Jupiter, is the 2nd largest planet with a diameter of 116,460km compared to Europa’s 3121.6km and is planet whilst Europa is a natural satellite/moon.

There are various other differences between these two celestial bodies so continue reading for a more detailed break down of their similarities and differences below.

What Is The Planet Saturn?

Saturn and star

Saturn is the second largest planet in our solar system that has 7 rings surrounding its gaseous exterior. It’s also the 6th farthest planet from the Sun.

As Saturn falls under the gas giant moniker, the planet is mostly made up of gases. However, Saturn’s composition is a little different from Jupiter’s where its atmosphere is a mixture of hydrogen and ices containing elements of Ammonia.

It’s core on the other hand is comprised of a dense core of nickel and iron, which is then surrounded by rocks compressed so strongly that it allows the planets core to reach scorching hot temperatures of 11,700+ degrees Celsius.

On the other hand, It’s gaseous atmosphere is far cooler. The exterior generally sits in the extreme sub zero range where Saturn’s temperatures averages around -138 degrees Celsius.

This is generally constant throughout the yellow ringed giants day to day. In fact it’s much colder than even the coldest place on Earth, which would be Eastern Antarctic Plateau, Antarctica that hits -94 degrees Celsius, which is more than 40 degrees Celsius warmer.

Being so large (116,460km), Saturn’s gravitational pull is obviously strong. That’s why over it’s 4.5 billion years of existence, beyond its rings, this yellow gas giant has managed to accumulate 82 different moons along with other smaller interstellar debris that now orbit it.

In fact it’s largest moon Titan is literally bigger than one of the 8 planets orbiting the Sun, Mercury.

Saturn also orbits the Sun but, as the 6th farthest planet from it, it does mean a singular orbit will take it 29.4 Earth years to complete. In comparison to its axial orbit which only takes 10.7 hours, this is exponentially longer.

What Is The Moon Europa?


Europa is the smallest of the Galilean moons, first discovered on 8th January 1610. The surface of this icy world is frozen, but scientists believe a watery ocean could lie beneath the surface. And in 2012, researchers found a possible water plume in the Southern polar region of Europa.

This research is yet to be confirmed; still, it gives us reasonable grounds to hypothesize that water could exist on this icy moon.

Estimates place Europa at around 4.5 billion years old (the same age as its planet, Jupiter), and its average distance from the Sun is approximately 780 million km.

It has a diameter of 3,121.6km, which makes it larger than Pluto but smaller than the Earth’s moon, and the maximum temperature is a chilly -160 degrees Celsius. In regards to mass, it measures in around 4.8 × 10^22 kg.

Europa takes three-and-a-half days to orbit its planet at an average distance of 670,900km, and it is tidally locked, meaning the same side of the moon always faces Jupiter.

Among the fascinating features of this ice moon is its incredibly reflective nature. The icy crust of this body provides a light reflectivity of 0.64 – the highest of any moon in the solar system.

Data from the Galileo spacecraft suggests that Europa is composed of an iron core, rocky mantle, and silicate rock (a similar composition to Earth).

The moon’s surface is covered in cracks, which many theorize could result from tidal currents beneath the surface. It is this potential of water – and of life – that keeps astronomers so interested in this moon.

Europa might be small, but astronomers estimate it holds two to three times more water than the Earth. In addition, this moon possesses the essential elements for life, such as carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen.

There may be no solar energy on this moon, but hydrothermal vents could provide energy, and tidal heating from Jupiter could provide a heat source and keep the moon stable enough for life to form. In addition, the liquid ocean is well protected from radiation from thick, icy surfaces.

How Are Saturn And Europa Similar?

Saturn and Europa don’t have too many similarities but some elements are still shared, which in this case includes the below:

  • Both are a spherical shape.
  • Both have a hotter core.
  • Both also orbit another entity.
  • Neither have tectonic plates.
  • Both are part of the same solar system.

Differences Between Saturn And Europa

In regards to the differences between the two, they include the following:

  • Saturn is a gas giant whilst Europa is a natural satellite composed in similar manner to a terrestrial planet.
  • Europa is far smaller with a diameter of 3121.6km whilst Saturn is almost 40 times its size at 116,460km.
  • Saturn has 82 moons whilst Europa has no other natural satellites orbiting it.
  • Saturn has 7 rings whilst Europa has 0.
  • Europa has water ice on its surface whilst Saturn is composed mostly of hydrogen and helium.
  • Europa’s surface temperature is -160 degrees Celsius on average whilst Saturn’s average temperature is -138 degrees Celsius on average.
  • Saturn is the 6th farthest planet from the Sun therefore, it takes 29.4 years to orbit the Sun whilst Europa orbits the Sun in the same amount of time as Jupiter which would be 12 years. As for its orbital cycle around Jupiter, this would be 3.55 days,
  • Europa is tidally locked to Jupiter whilst Saturn is not tidally locked to anything.
  • Saturn’s density is 0.67 g/cm³ whilst Europa’s density is 3.01 g/cm³.
  • Europa’s gravitational strength is 1.315 m/s² whereas Saturn’s is more powerful at 10.44 m/s².
  • Saturn has a magnetosphere whilst Europa does not.
  • Europa is the most reflective moon in our solar system with an albedo of 0.64 whilst Saturn’s reflective rating is 0.34.
  • Saturn has a mass of 5.683 × 10^26 kg whereas Europa is far lighter at 4.8 × 10^22 kg.


Saturn and Europa are clearly very different from one another even if they are part of the same solar system and don’t have tectonic plate activity.

Whether it be in regards to size, temperature, density, overall composition and simply how they function, Europa and Saturn are worlds apart.

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