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Saturn Conjunctions with other Planets, 2014-2023

Moon near Saturn Dates, 2022

S. Zodiac Constellations: Photos

Saturn's brightest moons

Saturn Through the Telescope

Position of Saturn, 2006-2013

Saturn's Orbit & Ring Aspects

The Position of Saturn in the Night Sky:

2014 to 2022

 by Martin J. Powell


Where is Saturn tonight? This star chart shows the path of Saturn through the Southern zodiac from 2014 to 2022. Click for full-size image, 218 KB (Copyright Martin J Powell 2013)

The path of Saturn against the background stars of Libra, Scorpius, Ophiuchus, Sagittarius and Capricornus from November 2013 to February 2023, with positions marked on the first day of each month (click on thumbnail for full-size image, 218 KB). The dates are colour-coded by year; a quick-glance legend is towards the lower left (e.g. all 2017 positions are shown in orange). Periods when the planet is unobservable (i.e. when it is too close to the Sun, or passes behind it) are indicated by a dashed line; hence Saturn becomes lost from view (in the evening sky) in early December 2017 and becomes visible again (in the morning sky) in early January 2018. The star map applies to observers in the Northern hemisphere (i.e. North is up); for the Southern hemisphere view, click here (222 KB).

The faintest stars on the map have an apparent magnitude of about +4.8. Printer-friendly versions of this chart are available for Northern (102 KB) and Southern hemisphere (103 KB) views. Astronomical co-ordinates of Right Ascension (longitude, measured Eastwards in hrs:mins from the First Point of Aries) and Declination (latitude, measured in degrees North or South of the celestial equator) are marked around the border of the chart. Click here to see a 'clean' star map of the area (i.e. without planet path); observers may wish to use the 'clean' star map as an aid to plotting the planet's position on a specific night - in which case, a printable version can be found here. A night sky photograph of Sagittarius and its surrounding constellations can be seen below.

The chart shows the changing shape of Saturn's apparent looping formation as it moves through the zodiac, from a Northward-facing loop in Libra in 2014 to a Southward-facing 'hybrid' in Capricornus in 2022. For a fuller description of the planets' apparent loops against the background stars, refer to the Planet Movements page.

Having spent a period of just over three years in the constellation of Virgo, the Virgin, Saturn moved South-eastwards into Libra, the Balance in late August 2013. From this time through to the early 2020s the planet occupies the constellations of the Southern zodiac stretching through to Capricornus, the Sea Goat. The ringed planet last occupied this region of the zodiac between 1984 and 1993.

Saturn imaged by Trevor Barry in April of 2013. Click for a larger version, 5 KB (Image: Trevor Barry)Saturn imaged by Australian amateur astronomer Trevor Barry through his 16-inch Newtonian reflector telescope on 26th April 2013, two days after the planet's opposition in North-western Libra (click on the thumbnail for a larger image, 5 KB). South is up and East is to the right (Image: Trevor Barry)

At the close of 2013 and throughout 2014, Saturn describes a Northward-facing loop in central Libra, positioned to the North-east of the constellation's second-brightest star Zuben Elgenubi (Greek lower-case letter 'alpha' Lib or Alpha Librae, apparent magnitude +2.8). In 2015 the planet describes another North-facing loop on the border with Scorpius, the Scorpion. Its Eastern stationary point is reached in mid-March 2015, positioned within the narrow Scorpian 'corridor' to the NNW of Antares (Greek lower-case letter 'alpha' Sco or Alpha Scorpii, mag. +1.0v). The planet retrogrades (moves East to West) back into Libra in mid-May, reaching its Western stationary point in early August 2015. It then regains direct motion (West to East) and re-enters Scorpius in mid-October 2015. The following month the planet approaches to within 0.02 (1.5 arcminutes, where 1' = 1/60th of a degree) of the interesting quadruple star named Jabbah (Greek lower-case letter 'nu' Sco or Nu Scorpii, mag. +4.0) in Northern Scorpius.

Saturn enters Ophiuchus, the Serpent Bearer, in late November 2015 where it describes a Northward-facing, flattened loop to the South-west of the star Sabik (Greek lower-case letter 'eta' Oph or Eta Ophiuchi, mag. +2.5). A 'hybrid' formation (half loop, half zig-zag) is described in South-eastern Ophiuchus during 2017, with a three-month excursion into Sagittarius, the Archer. The planet reaches its Eastern stationary point in early April, in Western Sagittarius, a short distance North-west of the Lagoon Nebula (M8 or NGC 6523). Saturn retrogrades into Ophiuchus in mid-May 2017, reaching its Western stationary point North of the star Theta Ophiuchi (Greek lower-case letter 'theta' Oph, mag. +3.2) in late August 2017. After resuming direct motion the planet enters Sagittarius for the longer term in mid-November of that year. During 2018 the planet describes a Northward-facing hybrid formation to the North of the constellation's well-known Teapot asterism, attaining its most Southerly declination (angle relative to the celestial equator) of -22 46' 49" (-22.78 in decimal form) in late October 2018. Hereafter Saturn begins a slow Northward ascent through the zodiac, which will culminate when it is positioned in Gemini in 2033.

Whilst in the Eastern half of Sagittarius, Saturn describes two classic 'zig-zag' formations. The first takes place during 2019, when the planet is situated to the North-east of the Archer's second-brightest star Nunki (Greek lower-case letter 'sigma' Sgr or Sigma Sagittarii, mag. +2.0). In early February of that year, Saturn passes just 0.4 (24') South of the star Omicron Sagittarii (Greek lower-case letter 'omicron' Sgr, mag. +3.7). In mid-February 2020, Saturn crosses the ecliptic (the apparent path of the Sun through the constellations, which the Moon and planets follow closely) in a Southward direction, the second 'zig-zag' formation being described immediately afterwards, on the border between Sagittarius and Capricornus. The planet is positioned a little to the North of the eighth-magnitude globular cluster M75 (NGC 6864) at this time. Saturn reaches its Eastern stationary point in Western Capricornus in mid-May 2020 before retrograding back into Sagittarius in early July, where the planet reaches its Western stationary point in late September.

Having now moved to the South of the ecliptic, Saturn's loops switch from Northward-facing to Southward-facing. After spending some three years in Sagittarius, Saturn enters Capricornus for the longer term in mid-December 2020, where its Northward ascent of the zodiac becomes more evident. The planet describes two Southward-facing hybrid formations here, one in 2021 and another in 2022. In May 2021 Saturn reaches its Eastern stationary point just 0.6 (37') West of the fourth-magnitude star Greek lower-case letter 'theta' Cap (Theta Capricornus). January 2022 sees the planet pass just 0.25 (15') South of the same star. The planet leaves Capricornus and enters Aquarius, the Water Carrier, in February 2023 and exits the star chart shortly thereafter.

Saturn reaches opposition to the Sun (when it is closest to the Earth and brightest in the sky for the year) every 378 days on average, i.e. about 13 days later in each successive year. Around opposition, Saturn is due South at local midnight in the Northern hemisphere (due North at local midnight in the Southern hemisphere). Details of the nine Saturnian oppositions covered by the above star map are given in the table below. Note how the planet's appearance changes slightly at each opposition, the ring system displaying varying tilt angles to the Earth as it orbits the Sun (for more details, see the diagram of Saturn's orbit). Like the other Solar System planets, Saturn's apparent size (its angular diameter as seen from the Earth) varies slightly at each opposition because its orbit is slightly elliptical.

The dates on which Saturn reaches superior conjunction (i.e. when it passes behind the Sun as seen from the Earth) are also shown in the table. The planet is not normally visible from the Earth for about two weeks on either side of these dates.

Saturn opposition data for the period 2014 to 2022 (click for full-size image, 62 KB)

Saturn opposition data for the period 2014 to 2022 (click on thumbnail for full-size table, 62 KB). The Declination is the angle of the planet to the North (+) or South (-) of the celestial equator; on the star chart, it represents the planet's angular distance above or below the blue line. The angular diameter (or apparent size) of the planet as seen from Earth is given in arcseconds (where 1 arcsecond = 1/3600th of a degree).

Note that Saturn's distance at each opposition slowly increased through to 2018, at which time it crossed the aphelion point in its orbit, causing its angular diameter to shrink slightly year by year. From 2019 onwards, each successive opposition brings it slightly closer to the Earth, increasing its apparent size each time. Saturn's apparent magnitude (brightness) reached a low point when the Earth passed through the planet's ring-plane in 2009. It began to brighten again thereafter and reached a 'peak' in 2018 when the rings appeared almost fully open.

The Ring Tilt (the ring plane opening angle to the Earth) is positive (+) when Saturn's Northern hemisphere is tipped towards the Earth and negative (-) when the planet's Southern hemisphere is tipped towards the Earth; the maximum value it can attain is 27.0. The Ring Tilt values were obtained from the SETI Institute's Saturn Ephemeris Generator 2.5. All other data was obtained from the software 'Redshift', the 'SkyGazer Ephemeris' utility and the 'Cielo e Terra' website. The Saturn images were modified by the writer from NASA's Solar System Simulator.

By a stroke of good luck on nature's part, Saturn's perihelion (its closest orbital point to the Sun) takes place only a short while after the planet's Southern pole is tilted at its greatest angle towards the Earth, so at these times - namely, every 29 years - we are treated to a splendid, 'close-up' view of both the globe and the ring system when seen through Earthbound telescopes; this will next happen in 2032. For Northern hemisphere observers the situation is even better: whenever it is near perihelion, Saturn rides high in the sky on the Taurus/Gemini border, giving the best possible observing conditions. Saturn last passed perihelion in 2003 and will next pass it in late 2032; it will then be 9.015 Astronomical Units (838 million miles or 1,348 million kms) from the Sun. The planet will reach its most Northerly point in the zodiac some six months later, in mid-2033.

Saturn will reach aphelion (its furthest orbital point from the Sun) in Sagittarius in 2047, when it will be 10.046 AU (1,503 million kms or 934 million statute miles) from the Sun. Southern hemisphere observers will then be ideally placed to observe the fully-open Northern face of the rings. The planet will reach its most Southerly point in the zodiac in the following year.

[Terms in yellow italics are explained in greater detail in an associated article describing planetary movements in the night sky.]

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Saturn Conjunctions with other Planets,

August 2014 to January 2023

Viewed from the orbiting Earth, whenever two planets appear to pass each other in the night sky (a line-of-sight effect) the event is known as a planetary conjunction or appulse. Not all planetary conjunctions will be visible from the Earth, however, because many of them take place too close to the Sun. Furthermore, not all of them will be seen from across the world; the observers' latitude will affect the altitude (angle above the horizon) at which the two planets are seen at the time of the event, and the local season will affect the sky brightness at that particular time. A flat, unobstructed horizon will normally be required to observe most of them.

The majority of conjunctions involving Saturn are not particularly spectacular to view because the planet is usually positioned far away from the Earth - and is therefore not especially bright - whenever they occur. Those involving Venus will always take place at solar elongations of less than 47 from the Sun, whilst those involving Mercury will always take place at less than about 27 from the Sun. In both of these instances twilight is often a problem, the lighter sky diminishing the visual impact of the conjunction (Saturn looking like an ordinary, pale-yellow star).

Saturn's most interesting conjunctions take place when the planet is within a few months of opposition - and is therefore very bright - at which times they involve either Jupiter or Mars; these events are however very rare. Most conjunctions between Saturn and Jupiter (or Saturn and Mars) occur at elongations of less than 90, when Saturn is far from its brightest in any given apparition. Between 2014 and 2020, for example, only two conjunctions are positioned more than 90 from the Sun, the majority taking place at solar elongations of less than 45. Throughout the period, Saturn shines at a relatively dim apparent magnitude of around +0.6.

When Saturn's rings are well-presented to the Earth, the planet's apparent magnitude brightens significantly. A conjunction between Saturn and Mars in Southern Ophiuchus on August 25th 2016 - when the rings are close to their maximum opening angle - will see Saturn shine at magnitude +0.5 (one half-magnitude fainter than at opposition) and Mars at magnitude -0.4. With both planets positioned some 97 to the East of the Sun, this conjunction will be easily seen against a dark Western sky after sunset.


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Because the ringed planet is traversing the Southern zodiac during the period in question, it follows that the majority of conjunctions will be best seen from the Southern hemisphere. Even where the majority of the Northern hemisphere has a relatively good view it will almost always be difficult or impossible to observe from higher Northern latitudes.

The rarest of the conjunctions during the period is that between Saturn and Jupiter in December 2020. Conjunctions between these two planets were known historically as Great Conjunctions and they take place about every twenty years. However, they are not always best placed for viewing, sometimes occurring at narrow solar elongations. Perhaps the best-known of the 'Great Conjunctions' happened in the year 7 BC, in the constellation of Pisces, the Fishes, an event which has been considered a possible explanation for the Star of Bethlehem mentioned in the New Testament of the Bible. Specifically, this was a triple conjunction - a series of three conjunctions which took place during that year - which, it is argued, was such an unusual chain of events that the Magi (the 'wise men' or astrologers) gave it a special significance. Critics of this theory say, among other things, that the two planets were too far apart to attract any particular attention, their angular separation at best having been about 1 (about two apparent Full Moon diameters).

The 'Great Conjunction' of December 2020 takes place on the day of Earth's winter solstice, the planets being only 30 away from the Sun in the evening sky. Whilst not ideally placed for viewing and being well past their opposition dates, Saturn and Jupiter are separated by only 6 arcminutes (0.1), making them both visible in the field-of-view of most telescopic eyepieces. After 2020, the two planets will meet again in November 2040 in the constellation of Virgo, the Virgin.

The following table details the conjunctions involving Saturn which take place at solar elongations of greater than 15 over the period in question. In several cases, other planets and/or stars are also in the vicinity and these are detailed. Note that, because some of the conjunctions occur in twilight, the planets involved may not appear as bright as their listed magnitude suggests.

Saturn conjunctions with other planets from August 2014 to January 2023. Click for full-size image, 105 KB (Copyright Martin J Powell, 2021)

Saturn conjunctions with other planets from August 2014 to January 2023 (click on thumbnail for full-size table, 105 KB). Note that there are no observable planetary conjunctions involving Saturn during 2015 or 2021. The column headed 'UT' is the Universal Time (equivalent to GMT) of the conjunction (in hrs : mins). The separation (column 'Sep') is the angular distance between the two planets, measured relative to Saturn, hence on 2018 Apr 2, Mars is positioned 1.2 South of Saturn at the time shown. The 'Fav. Hem' column shows the Hemisphere in which the conjunction will be best observed (Northern, Southern and/or Equatorial). Note that observers located close to the Northern/Southern visibility boundary of any given conjunction will find it difficult or impossible to observe because of low altitude and/or bright twilight.

In the 'When Visible' column, a distinction is made between Dawn/Morning visibility and Dusk/Evening visibility; the terms Dawn/Dusk refer specifically to the twilight period before sunrise/after sunset, whilst the terms Evening/Morning refer to the period after darkness falls/before twilight begins (some conjunctions take place in darkness, others do not, depending upon latitude). The 'Con' column shows the constellation in which the planets are positioned at the time of the conjunction.

To find the direction in which the conjunction will be seen, note down the constellation in which the planets are located ('Con' column) on the required date and find the constellation's rising direction (for Dawn/Morning apparitions) or setting direction (for Dusk/Evening apparitions) for your particular latitude in the Rise-Set direction table.

Although any given conjunction takes place at a particular instant in time, it is worth pointing out that, because of the planets' relatively slow daily motions, such events are interesting to observe for several days both before and after the actual conjunction date.

There are in fact two methods of defining a planetary conjunction date: one is measured in Right Ascension (i.e. perpendicular to the celestial equator) and the other is measured along the ecliptic, which is inclined at 23 to the Earth's equatorial plane (this is due to the tilt of the Earth's axis in space). An animation showing how conjunction dates are determined by each method can be found on the Jupiter-Uranus 2010-11 triple conjunction page. Although conjunctions measured along the ecliptic can be significantly closer, the Right Ascension method is the more commonly used, and it is the one which is adopted here.

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Constellations of the Southern Zodiac: Photos

Photograph showing the constellation of Capricornus, the Sea-Goat. Click for a full-size version, 49 KB (Copyright Martin J Powell, 2005)__Photograph showing the constellation of Sagittarius and other constellations in the vicinity of the Southern zodiac. Click for a full-size photo, 183 KB (Copyright Martin J Powell, 2005)__Photograph showing the constellation of Libra, the Balance and the Northern region of Scorpius, the Scorpion. Click for a full-size photo, 57 KB (Copyright Martin J Powell, 2006)


Sagittarius & Southern Zodiac

Libra & Northern Scorpius

 Areas of the 2014-22 star chart which are covered by the photographs (click for full-size image, 77 KB)

Three Photographs showing the region of the night sky through which Saturn passes between 2014 and 2022 (click on the thumbnails for their full-size versions; 49 KB, 183 KB and 57 KB). The chart on the left (77 KB) shows the areas of the star chart which are covered by each of the photographs.

The faintest stars visible in each photo are slightly different in each case. For the Capricornus photo, the faintest stars visible are about magnitude +7.1; for the Sagittarius photo, the faintest stars are about magnitude +8.1 and for the Libra & Northern Scorpius photo the magnitude limit is about +7.

Note that the photographs do not have the same scale because of the varying camera lens settings and image resolutions.

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Moon near Saturn Dates, 2022

On one or two days in each month, the Moon can be used as our celestial guide to help in locating Saturn in the sky. Use the following table to determine on which dates to see the Moon in the vicinity of the planet:

Moon near Saturn dates for 2022 (click for full-size image, 36 KB)Moon near Saturn dates for 2022 (click on thumbnail for full-size table, 36 KB). The Date Range shows the range of dates worldwide (allowing for Time Zone differences across East and West hemispheres). Note that the dates, times and separations at conjunction (i.e. when the two bodies are at the same Right Ascension) are measured from the Earth's centre (geocentric) and not from the Earth's surface (times are given in Universal Time [UT], equivalent to GMT). The Sep. & Dir. column gives the angular distance (separation) and direction of the planet relative to the Moon, e.g. on September 8th at 10:30 UT, Saturn is positioned 3.9 North of the Moon's centre. The Moon Phase shows whether the Moon is waxing (between New Moon and Full Moon), waning (between Full Moon and New Moon), at crescent phase (less than half of the lunar disk illuminated) or gibbous phase (more than half but less than fully illuminated).

Moon near Saturn dates can also be viewed for 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021.

A close approach of the Moon to the planet Saturn on March 2nd 2007. Click for full-size photo, 35 KB (Photo: Copyright Martin J. Powell 2007)The Moon made several close approaches to Saturn during 2007, such as on this occasion, photographed by the writer on March 2nd, when the Moon came to within 1 of the planet (geocentric measurement). The photo was obtained by pointing a tripod-mounted digital SLR camera through the eyepiece of an 8-inch reflecting telescope set at 81x magnification (click for full-size image, 35 KB). Since the Moon is many times brighter than Saturn, two separate photos were required in order to capture the Moon and Saturn at their correct exposures. From the writer's location in the South-western United Kingdom, the Moon was seen to pass just to the North of the planet (note that the image is inverted, since it was taken through an astronomical telescope).

The Moon also occasionally passes in front of Saturn - an event called a lunar occultation - when seen from various parts of the world. A lunar occultation involving Saturn took place in every month from February to November of 2019. The next set of occultations will take place in 2024.

The Moon moves relatively quickly against the background stars in an Eastward direction, at about its own angular width (0.5) each hour (about 12.2 per day). Because it is relatively close to the Earth, an effect called parallax causes it to appear in a slightly different position (against the background stars) when seen from any two locations on the globe at any given instant; the further apart the locations, the greater the Moon's apparent displacement against the background stars. Therefore, for any given date and time listed in the table, the Moon will appear closer to Saturn when seen from some locations than from others. For this reason, the dates shown in the table should be used only for general guidance.

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Saturn's Five Brightest Moons


Saturn's five brightest moons (satellites) - namely Titan (magnitude +8.3 at opposition), Rhea (+9.7), Tethys (+10.2), Dione (+10.4) and Enceladus (+11.7) - can readily be seen through telescopes, but only Titan (Saturn's largest moon) is visible through binoculars. The moons are seen to change their position in relation to each other from one night to the next.

Because of Saturn's relatively high axial tilt (26.7 to the plane of its orbit) the Saturnian moons are mostly seen to follow apparent elliptical paths around the planet when viewed from the Earth (this is in contrast to, say, Jupiter's shallow axial tilt (3.1), which causes its moons to present a more-or-less linear motion when seen from the Earth - see Jupiter's moon positions). However, the motion of Saturn's moons does appear more-or-less linear whenever the Earth crosses through the ring-plane of the planet, as it did in 2009. For about a year on either side of the ring-plane crossing date, transits (when a moon or its shadow passes across the planet's disk), occultations (when a moon passes behind the planet's disk) and eclipses (when a moon enters the planet's shadow) can be observed through telescopes.

The positions of Saturn's five brightest moons can be found using Sky & Telescope's Saturn Moons facility.

Positions of all five moons with an additional three - namely Iapetus (which varies between magnitudes +10.2 and +11.9 at opposition), Mimas (+12.9 at opposition) and Hyperion (+14.2 at opposition) - can be found at the BAA's Computing Section website.

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The Position of Saturn, 2014-22 (Desktop Site)

The Naked-Eye Planets in the Night Sky

Planetary Movements through the Zodiac










Copyright  Martin J Powell  2013-2022

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