© Erich Karkoschka (University of Arizona), NASA/ESA

Equinox on Saturn

Dominic Ford, Editor
From the Outer Planets feed

Objects: Saturn
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The changing seasons on Saturn will pass an equinox, meaning that the Sun will appear to pass over the planet's equator.

This means that Saturn's rings will appear very close to edge-on as viewed from the Earth. Our line of sight to Saturn is very closely aligned with the line between the Sun and Saturn, because Saturn's distance from the Sun and Earth is more than nine times greater than the distance between the Earth and Sun. So, when the Sun shines down on Saturn's equator, this is also the direction from which we view the planet.

Saturn's rings are closely aligned with its equator, and are no more than a kilometer thick, despite stretching for tens of thousands of kilometers around the planet. When they are viewed edge-on, they can become so thin as to be incredibly hard to see.

This configuration arises twice within each orbit that Saturn makes around the Sun, just as the Earth has two equinoxes each year. However, as Saturn takes nearly 30 years to orbit the Sun, its equinoxes only occur once every 15 years.

The exact position of Saturn at the moment of its equinox will be:

Object Right Ascension Declination Constellation Angular Size
Saturn 00h01m50s 2°07'S Pisces 17.3"
Sun 05h36m +23°20' Taurus 31'29"

The coordinates above are given in J2000.0.

The sky on 27 July 2021
Twilight ends
Twilight begins

17-day old moon
Waning Gibbous


17 days old

Rise Culm. Set
Mercury 05:11 12:36 20:01
Venus 08:27 15:08 21:48
Moon 22:19 03:47 09:28
Mars 07:47 14:37 21:27
Jupiter 21:26 02:44 08:02
Saturn 20:30 01:25 06:21
All times shown in EDT.


The circumstances of this event were computed using the DE430 planetary ephemeris published by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

This event was automatically generated by searching the ephemeris for planetary alignments which are of interest to amateur astronomers, and the text above was generated based on an estimate of your location.

Related news

15 Jun 1966  –  Equinox on Saturn
19 Sep 1966  –  Saturn at opposition
28 Oct 1966  –  Saturn ring plane crossing
17 Dec 1966  –  Saturn ring plane crossing

Image credit

© Erich Karkoschka (University of Arizona), NASA/ESA






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