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|
The coordinates above are given in J2000.0.
|The sky on 20 January 2022|
18 days old
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.
|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|
© Erich Karkoschka (University of Arizona), NASA/ESA