How far away is Saturn now?

Last Updated: Today

As of September 15 2023, Saturn is 819,500,756 miles (1,318,576,716 kilometers) away from Earth, which is about 8.81414093979796 AU.
saturn background

Where does this live distance data come from?

I source Saturn’s distance from Earth via the Horizon JPL API. It is a free service provided by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) that offers access to ephemeris (positional) data and related information for celestial bodies, such as planets, asteroids, and comets. The system can be accessed through various interfaces, including a web interface, a telnet interface, and an email interface.

This API contains the precise distance between Saturn and Earth from each day of the next few hundred years. 

So I simply created a system to check for today’s date, then go retrieve the accurate distance value directly from NASA’s database. The up-to-date value is then displayed on this page. 

How do scientists calculate the real-time distance between Saturn and earth?

Scientists calculate the live distance between Saturn and Earth using a combination of mathematics, astronomical data, and the principles of celestial mechanics. The positions of Earth and Saturn in their respective orbits are constantly changing due to their elliptical orbits and different orbital periods around the Sun.

Saturn's orbital parameters

Orbital parameters describe the way objects move around in space, such as planets, moons, and satellites. These parameters include the size, shape, and tilt of the orbit, as well as the object’s position and speed within the orbit.

They help scientists understand and predict the paths of celestial bodies, which is crucial for planning space missions, observing astronomical phenomena, and monitoring satellites. 

Orbital ParameterSaturnEarthRatio (Saturn/Earth)Definition
Semimajor axis (10^6 km)1,432.041149.5989.573The average distance from the center of the planet to its orbit
Sidereal orbit period (days)10,759.22365.25629.457The time taken to complete one orbit around the Sun
Tropical orbit period (days)10,746.94365.24229.424The time taken to complete one orbit relative to the seasons
Perihelion (10^6 km)1,357.554147.0959.229The closest distance to the Sun in the planet’s orbit
Aphelion (10^6 km)1,506.527152.1009.905The farthest distance to the Sun in the planet’s orbit
Synodic period (days)378.09The time between two successive oppositions or conjunctions
Mean orbital velocity (km/s)9.6729.780.325The average speed of the planet in its orbit
Max. orbital velocity (km/s)10.1430.290.335The maximum speed of the planet in its orbit
Min. orbital velocity (km/s)9.1429.290.312The minimum speed of the planet in its orbit
Orbit inclination (deg)2.4860.000The tilt of the planet’s orbit relative to the ecliptic plane
Orbit eccentricity0.05200.01673.114The measure of the ellipticity of the planet’s orbit
Sidereal rotation period (hrs)10.656*23.93450.445The time taken for one complete rotation on its axis
Length of day (hrs)10.65624.00000.444The duration of daylight on the planet
Obliquity to orbit (deg)26.7323.441.140The angle between the planet’s rotational axis and its orbit

Saturn at opposition (list for the next 7 years)

When astronomer talks about Saturn being at opposition,  it means that Saturn, Earth, and the Sun are aligned in a straight line, with Earth in the middle. During this time, which lasts for a few weeks, Saturn appears brighter and larger in the sky because it’s at its closest point to Earth in its orbit.

Saturn reaches planetary opposition approximately once every 12 months, or about once a year, providing astronomers and stargazers with an amazing opportunity to observe and admire the ringed planet.

Below you can find a list of opposition dates for the next 7 years:

DateConstellationMagnitudeApparent Size (Arcseconds)Distance from Earth (AU)
2023 Aug 27Aquarius+0.344″.08.7629
2024 Feb 28Aquarius+0.443″.58.6580
2024 Sep 8Aquarius+0.543″.98.5467
2025 Mar 12Pisces+0.544″.68.4342
2026 Oct 4Cetus +0.345″.38.3260
2027 Oct 18Pisces+0.045″.88.2275
2028 Oct 30Aries-0.146″.28.1444
2029 Nov 13Aries-0.346″.79.905
2030 Nov 27Taurus+0.543″.99.573
2031 Jun 3Pisces+0.345″.39.229

Just for fun, how long would it take to reach Saturn via different transportation means

The average distance between Earth and Saturn is 886 million miles (1.4 billion kilometers), so based on that distance, I have calculated the time it would take to reach the giant ringed planet at the speed of different means of transportation.

  • On foot (3 mph): approximately 33,727 years
  • Bicycle (15 mph): approximately 6,745 years
  • Horse (galloping at 25 mph): approximately 4,047 years
  • Motorbike (average speed of 70 mph): approximately 1,444 years
  • Boat (cruising speed of 23 mph): approximately 4,399 years
  • Car (60 mph): approximately 1,686 years
  • High-speed train (200 mph): approximately 506 years
  • Commercial Airplane (575 mph): approximately 176 years
  • Concorde supersonic jet (1,350 mph): approximately 75 years
  • SpaceX Starship (projected average speed of 16,777 mph): approximately 6 years

Please note this is only for fun and it does not reflect the reality of space travel. This is a simplification and does not account for acceleration, deceleration, or the gravitational influences of celestial bodies which would play significant roles in actual space travel. 

Also, these calculations assume constant speed, which is not how actual space travel works. A real trip to Saturn would be faster due to the spacecraft picking up speed from gravitational assists.

Bonus Fact: On average it takes about 1-2 hours for light from Saturn to reach Earth.

Tom Urbain

 I’ve been fascinated by space and astronomy from a very young age. When I’m not watching space-themed documentaries, movies or TV series, I spend most of my free time in my backyard admiring the planets and galaxies with my telescope.