Saturn. Image credit: Hubble
Saturn. Image credit: Hubble


How Long Does it Take Saturn to Orbit the Sun

4 Nov , 2009 by

Saturn orbits the Sun further away than Earth. And because of this, the orbit of Saturn takes much longer than the orbit of Earth. How much longer? It takes Saturn 29.45 years (or 10,759 days) to orbit the Sun. Astronomers call the length of time an object takes to go around the Sun its orbital period. So the orbital period of Saturn is 29.45 years.

One of the interesting facts about Saturn is that its axis is tilted off the plane of the ecliptic (just like Earth). And just like Earth, Saturn goes through seasons as it travels around the Sun. For half of its orbit, the northern hemisphere receives more of the Sun’s radiation, and then for the other half of its orbit, the southern hemisphere is in sunlight. This creates storm systems that dramatically change depending on which part of its orbit Saturn is in.

Another interesting feature is the amount of the rings that we can see from Earth. For part of its orbit, Saturn’s rings are seen at their widest point, and Saturn has its familiar ringed planet appearance. But then as it continues on its orbit around the Sun, the angle of Saturn’s rings decreases until they disappear entirely from our point of view. Of course, the rings haven’t actually disappeared, we’re just seeing them edge-on. And then a few years later, our seeing angle improves and we can see the beautiful rings again.

We have written many articles about Saturn for Universe Today. Here’s an article about an aurora on Saturn, and an image of a giant ring around Saturn seen from the Spitzer Space Telescope.

If you’d like more information on Saturn, check out Hubblesite’s News Releases about Saturn. And here’s a link to the homepage of NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, which is orbiting Saturn.

We have also recorded an entire episode of Astronomy Cast that’s just about Saturn. Listen here, Episode 59: Saturn.

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

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