© 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 23h19m30s 6°47'S Aquarius 18.1"
Sun 15h35m -19°18' Libra 32'21"

The coordinates above are given in J2000.0.

The sky on 20 January 2022
Twilight ends
Twilight begins

18-day old moon
Waning Gibbous


18 days old

Rise Culm. Set
Mercury 07:49 12:40 17:30
Venus 06:10 10:59 15:48
Moon 18:36 02:16 09:42
Mars 05:47 09:55 14:04
Jupiter 09:19 14:34 19:49
Saturn 08:31 13:14 17:57
All times shown in PST.


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

18 Nov 1995  –  Equinox on Saturn
11 Feb 1996  –  Saturn ring plane crossing
26 Sep 1996  –  Saturn at opposition
09 Oct 1997  –  Saturn at opposition

Image credit

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






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