Orbit of Saturn

by Fraser Cain on January 26, 2009

Saturn, seen by Cassini. Image credit: NASA/JPL/SSI

Saturn, seen by Cassini. Image credit: NASA/JPL/SSI


The orbit of Saturn lasts 29.7 years. In other words, during the time Saturn completes one full revolution around the Sun, Earth has gone through almost 30 years.

Like all the planets in the Solar System, the orbit of Saturn isn’t a perfect circle. It follows an elliptical path around the Sun.

The closest point of Saturn’s orbit is called its perihelion. At this point, Saturn is only 1.353 billion km or 9 astronomical units from the Sun (1 AU is the average distance from the Earth to the Sun).

The most distant point of Saturn’s orbit is called aphelion. At this point, Saturn is 1.513 billion km or 10.1 astronomical units from the Sun.

One of the interesting features about Saturn’s orbit is our perspective from here on Earth. Like Earth, Saturn’s axis of rotation is inclined compared to the plane of the Sun. For half of its orbit, Saturn’s southern pole faces the Sun, and then its northern pole faces the Sun for the other half of its orbit. And over the course of the year, there are times when we have a full view of Saturn’s rings, and other times when the rings are seen edge on.

Since Saturn takes almost 30 years to complete an orbit around the Sun, it has only gone around the Sun about 13 times since Galileo first observed Saturn in a telescope in 1610.

We have written many articles about Saturn for Universe Today. Here’s an article about how Saturn’s rings “disappear” as it orbits the Sun.

Want more information on Saturn? Here’s a link to Hubblesite’s News Releases about Saturn, and here’s NASA’s Solar System Exploration Guide.

We have recorded a podcast just about Saturn for Astronomy Cast. Click here and listen to Episode 59: Saturn.

About 

Fraser Cain is the publisher of Universe Today. He's also the co-host of Astronomy Cast with Dr. Pamela Gay.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: