Saturn’s opposition in 2023: Fun and easy things to see

Saturn’s opposition in 2023 comes on August 26-27

Once each year, Earth passes between the sun and the 6th planet, Saturn. Our motion brings Saturn opposite the sun in our sky, to a place called opposition by astronomers. In 2023, Saturn’s opposition will come early on August 27.

Opposition marks the middle of the best time of year to see an outer planet. During the weeks around its opposition, Saturn is generally at its closest to Earth and brightest for the year. It’s a beautiful and noticeable golden “star” in our night sky. Plus, because it’s opposite the sun, it’s up all night!

Saturn’s opposition in 2023: no telescope needed!

You need a telescope to see the rings of Saturn. But you can enjoy the planet with the eye alone. Here are some fun and easy observations you can make with just your eyes, during Saturn’s opposition month in 2023.

Want to know more about Saturn’s opposition? Click here

Saturn's opposition: Green ecliptic line, constellations Aquarius and Capricornus, Saturn, one star.
As evening falls in August 26, 2023, watch for bright golden Saturn just above the southeastern horizon. Saturn’s opposition, when we fly between Saturn and the sun, is at 8:00 UTC on August 27 (3 a.m. CDT). So it’s in a wonderful place to see now, ascending in the east in the evening, as seen from around the globe. Saturn at opposition is in the dim constellation Aquarius the Water Bearer. In addition, it’s near the dim but pretty constellation Capricornus the Sea-goat. You can see them crossing the sky all night, traveling along the ecliptic, the same path the sun travels during the day. Also, the bright star Fomalhaut is nearby. Chart via John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky.

August 2023: The moon and Saturn

Two positions of moon along green ecliptic line with Saturn and constellation Capricornus.
On the evenings of August 29 and 30, 2023, the bright moon will pass Saturn. The moon will be full on the overnight of August 30-31, making it the 2nd full moon of August 2023. In fact, it’s a monthly blue moon – the 2nd full moon in a month – and a supermoon. It’s the closest (biggest) full supermoon in 2023. It won’t look bigger to the eye, but it’ll sure look brighter! The constellation of Capricornus the Sea-goat is nearby. Chart via John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky.

In August 2023, use Saturn to see the ‘arrowhead’ in Capricornus

Dot for Saturn and outlined constellation labeled Capricornus.
In late August 2023, you’ll find Saturn rising around the time of sunset. And if your sky is truly dark, you can use Saturn to guide your eye to the faint “arrowhead” shape of Capricornus the Sea-Goat. The Sea Goat pattern is tough to imagine. But the arrowhead is easy, if you have a dark sky. Chart via John Jardine Goss / EarthSky.

August mornings: Saturn and the Water Jar

A white dot for Saturn plus a green ecliptic line and near an outlined asterism labeled Water Jar.
Here’s another sky pattern to see near Saturn, which will shine in the southwest before dawn in late August 2023. Look for the Water Jar asterism in the constellation Aquarius the Water Bearer. If your sky is truly dark, you can see a zig-zag line of stars leading downward from the Water Jar. The ancients saw these stars as water pouring from the jar! Saturn will be at its best from about mid-August to mid-September. Chart via John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky.

Bottom line: In August – the month of Saturn’s 2023 opposition – here are some fun and easy things you can watch for with the eye alone. And you don’t need a telescope!

Read about the Cassini mission at NASA

August 15, 2023

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Deborah Byrd

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