© NASA/Cassini

Saturn enters retrograde motion

Dominic Ford, Editor
From the Outer Planets feed

Objects: Saturn
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Saturn will enter retrograde motion, halting its usual eastward movement through the constellations, and turning to move westwards instead. This reversal of direction is a phenomenon that all the solar system's outer planets periodically undergo, a few months before they reach opposition.

The retrograde motion is caused by the Earth's own motion around the Sun. As the Earth circles the Sun, our perspective changes, and this causes the apparent positions of objects to move from side-to-side in the sky with a one-year period. This nodding motion is super-imposed on the planet's long-term eastward motion through the constellations.

The diagram below illustrates this. The grey dashed arrow shows the Earth's sight-line to the planet, and the diagram on the right shows the planet's apparently movement across the sky as seen from the Earth:

The retrograde motion of a planet in the outer solar system. Not drawn to scale.

2014 apparition of Saturn

02 Mar 2014 – Saturn enters retrograde motion
10 May 2014 – Saturn at opposition
20 Jul 2014 – Saturn ends retrograde motion

Observing Saturn

Saturn enters retrograde motion as its 2014 apparition gets underway, although it has already been visible for some weeks in the pre-dawn sky.

Its celestial coordinates as it enters retrograde motion will be:

Object Right Ascension Declination Constellation Magnitude Angular Size
Saturn 15h25m20s 16°16'S Libra 0.2 17.4"

The coordinates above are given in J2000.0.

From San Diego , it will be visible in the morning sky, becoming accessible around 00:10, when it reaches an altitude of 10° above your south-eastern horizon. It will then reach its highest point in the sky at 04:33, 41° above your southern horizon. It will be lost to dawn twilight around 05:46, 37° above your southern horizon.

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Over the following weeks, Saturn will reach its highest point in the sky four minutes earlier each night, gradually becoming visible in the evening sky, as well as the pre-dawn sky, as it approaches opposition.

The sky on 21 Jun 2024

The sky on 21 June 2024
Twilight ends
Twilight begins

15-day old moon
Waning Gibbous


15 days old

Rise Culm. Set
Mercury 06:14 13:26 20:38
Venus 06:00 13:09 20:18
Moon 19:12 00:06 04:57
Mars 02:36 09:14 15:53
Jupiter 04:04 11:03 18:02
Saturn 00:23 06:10 11:57
All times shown in PDT.


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

02 Mar 2014  –  Saturn enters retrograde motion
10 May 2014  –  Saturn at opposition
20 Jul 2014  –  Saturn ends retrograde motion
14 Mar 2015  –  Saturn enters retrograde motion

Image credit

© NASA/Cassini


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