Saturn formed beyond the snow line in the primordial solar nebula, and that made it possible for it to accrete a large mass. Disk instability and core accretion models have been proposed for Saturn’s formation, but core accretion is favored on the basis of its volatile abundances, internal structure, hydrodynamic models, chemical characteristics of protoplanetary disk, etc. The observed frequency, properties, and models of exoplanets provide additional supporting evidence for core accretion. The heavy elements with mass greater than 4He make up the core of Saturn, but are presently poorly constrained, except for carbon. The C/H ratio is super-solar, and twice that in Jupiter. The enrichment of carbon and other heavy elements in Saturn and Jupiter requires special delivery mechanisms for volatiles to these planets. In this chapter we will review our current understanding of the origin and evolution of Saturn and its atmosphere, using a multi-faceted approach that combines diverse sets of observations on volatile composition and abundances, relevant properties of the moons and rings, comparison with the other gas giant planet, Jupiter, and analogies to the extrasolar giant planets, as well as pertinent theoretical models.
Despite the lack of another Flagship-class mission such as Cassini–Huygens, prospects for the future exploration of Saturn are nevertheless encouraging. Both NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are exploring the possibilities of focused interplanetary missions (1) to drop one or more in situ atmospheric entry probes into Saturn and (2) to explore the satellites Titan and Enceladus, which would provide opportunities for both in situ investigations of Saturn’s magnetosphere and detailed remote-sensing observations of Saturn’s atmosphere. Additionally, a new generation of powerful Earth-based and near-Earth telescopes with advanced instrumentation spanning the ultraviolet to the far-infrared promise to provide systematic observations of Saturn’s seasonally changing composition and thermal structure, cloud structures and wind fields. Finally, new advances in amateur telescopic observations brought on largely by the availability of low-cost, powerful computers, low-noise, large-format cameras, and attendant sophisticated software promise to provide regular, longterm observations of Saturn in remarkable detail.
Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this to your organisation's collection.