Saturn at opposition on August 14
Earth flies between the sun and Saturn on August 14, 2022, placing the ringed planet opposite the sun – at opposition – in our sky.
Saturn at opposition
When and where to watch in 2022: Around its August 14 opposition, Saturn is rising in the east at sunset and visible all night. Afterward, for the rest of 2022, Saturn will remain visible in the evening sky. It’ll finally disappear in the sunset glare around January 2023.
Date and time of opposition: 17 UTC on August 14, 2022.
Brightness at opposition: At opposition, the ringed planet shines at its brightest for 2022, at magnitude 0.3.
Distance from Earth at opposition: Around opposition, Saturn is at its least distance from Earth for 2022, at 73 light-minutes (about 8.8 astronomical units).
Constellation at opposition: Capricornus the Sea Goat.
Disk size at opposition: Saturn’s disk size is largest around opposition. At its largest, Saturn will appear 18.76 arcseconds across.
Ring tilt at opposition: At opposition, Saturn’s rings are tilted by 13.9 degrees, relative to earthly viewers.
Note: Opposition marks the middle of the best time of year to see an outer planet. You can’t see Saturn’s rings through binoculars. But any small backyard telescope will reveal them. And, around its August 2022 opposition, Saturn will appear through binoculars as a bright oval-shaped disk.
For precise sun and Saturn rising times at your location:
How often is Saturn at opposition?
Saturn comes to opposition nearly every earthly year. A year is the length of time Earth takes to travel once around the sun. But Saturn’s orbit around the sun takes 29.4 Earth-years. So each year we have to travel slightly farther in orbit to catch up to, and pass, Saturn again. Thus Saturn oppositions are roughly 378 days apart and Saturn’s opposition comes about two weeks later each year.
2021 Saturn opposition: August 2
2022 Saturn opposition: August 14
2023 Saturn opposition: August 27
2024 Saturn opposition: September 8
2025 Saturn opposition: September 25
Saturn events in 2022 and early 2023
August 14, 2022: Saturn at opposition
October 23, 2022: Saturn ends retrograde motion
February 16, 2023: Saturn in conjunction with the sun (most behind the sun as seen from Earth).
Saturn is a world of rings and moons
Saturn is the sixth planet outward from the sun. People in ancient times saw it as a golden “star” that moved among the fixed stars: a wanderer. That’s because, it wasn’t until astronomers began using telescopes in the 17th century when they saw its rings.
Then, in the 1950s, astronomers spoke of Saturn as having three rings. But spacecraft in the latter part of the 20th century showed vastly more detail. In fact, they revealed that Saturn actually has thousands of thin, finely detailed rings made of tiny chunks of ice. Also, Saturn has at least 82 moons with confirmed orbits. Yet only 53 of Saturn’s moons have names, with the other 29 moons waiting confirmation. Furthermore, only 13 have diameters larger than 30 miles (about 50 kilometers).
Certainly, Saturn is truly a wondrous world of rings and moons. Obviously, it’s everyone’s favorite celestial object to gaze at through a small telescope. So if there’s a public astronomy night near you this month … go!
More great pictures of Saturn
Bottom line: Saturn’s 2022 opposition comes on August 14, when Earth will sweep between the sun and Saturn, placing the ringed planet opposite the sun in our sky. Saturn will be in an excellent place to observe throughout August, September and October 2022.