Earth flies between the sun and Saturn on August 26-27, 2023, placing the ringed planet opposite the sun – at opposition – in our sky.
Saturn at opposition
When and where to watch in 2023: Around its August 26-27 opposition, Saturn is rising in the east at sunset and is visible all night. Afterward, for the rest of 2023, Saturn will remain visible in the evening sky. It’ll finally disappear in the sunset glare by mid-February 2024. Date and time of opposition: 8 UTC on August 27, 2023 (3 a.m. CDT). Brightness at opposition: At opposition, the ringed planet shines at its brightest for 2023 at magnitude 0.4. Distance from Earth at opposition: Around opposition, Saturn is at its shortest distance from Earth for 2023, at 73 light-minutes (about 8.8 astronomical units). Constellation at opposition: Aquarius the Water Bearer. Disk size at opposition: Saturn’s disk size is largest around opposition. At its largest, Saturn will appear 19 arcseconds across. Ring tilt at opposition: At opposition, Saturn’s rings are tilted by 8.1 degrees, relative to earthly viewers. The rings will span 44.2 arcseconds. Note: Opposition marks the middle of the best time of the year to see an outer planet. Even though you can’t see Saturn’s rings through binoculars, it’ll appear through binoculars as a bright oval-shaped disk. But any small backyard telescope will show the rings.
For precise sun and Saturn rising times at your location:
As a matter of fact, 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.
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 2023
February 16, 2023: Saturn in conjunction with the sun
June 17, 2023: Saturn enters retrograde motion
August 27, 2023: Saturn at opposition
November 4, 2023: Saturn ends retrograde motion
View from above the solar system, August 2023
Saturn is a world of rings and moons
Saturn is the 6th 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 later part of the 20th century showed vastly more detail. In fact, they revealed that Saturn has thousands of thin, finely detailed rings made of tiny chunks of ice. Also, Saturn has at least 83 moons with confirmed orbits. Yet only 63 of Saturn’s moons have names, with the other 20 moons awaiting confirmation. Furthermore, only 13 of them have diameters larger than 30 miles (about 50 kilometers).
Certainly, Saturn is truly a wondrous world of rings and moons. Usually, 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 2023 opposition comes on August 26-27, 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 2023.
Bruce McClure served as lead writer for EarthSky's popular Tonight pages from 2004 to 2021, when he opted for a much-deserved retirement. He's a sundial aficionado, whose love for the heavens has taken him to Lake Titicaca in Bolivia and sailing in the North Atlantic, where he earned his celestial navigation certificate through the School of Ocean Sailing and Navigation. He also wrote and hosted public astronomy programs and planetarium programs in and around his home in upstate New York.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. In 2020, she was the Education Prize from the American Astronomical Society, the largest organization of professional astronomers in North America. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.
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