Children often wonder how far away is Saturn and how can they get there? It is interesting to admit that even after we grow up, these questions don’t leave us.
Keep reading to find out what the universe has to offer us if we know what questions to ask it!
What Is The Distance Between Saturn And The Earth?
Can you believe that Saturn is almost 839 million miles away from Earth? Finding it hard to digest that? It means that Saturn is more than 1.35 billion kilometers away from our star.
We can see a plethora of stars and the Moon from our window. Saturn is a ball of gases like any other planet or star and is tilted at a 2.4-degree angle to the orbital plane of the Earth. It can reflect almost 47% of the light it receives, which makes it even brighter than the Moon!
How Far Away Is Saturn From The Sun?
Saturn’s orbit around the Sun comes to an average of about 886 million miles. Saturn possesses an elliptical orbit which makes it arrive close to the Sun and at times, moves away from it. Its seasons last almost seven years at a time and it doesn’t receive much heat from the Sun.
When it reaches its farthest orbit, its distance could extend to even 936 million miles away from the Sun! When Saturn is behind the Sun at its farthest orbit, it is said to be approximately one billion miles away from the Earth.
When both the Earth and Saturn are before the Sun, the distance gets reduced to 746 million miles. This means that if we are planning a trip to Saturn any time soon, we need to pick a date when Saturn is in front of the Sun—not behind.
This is an interesting concept that occurs every 54 weeks. As mentioned earlier, Saturn is one of the brightest stars in the solar system. When it is closest to the Earth, Saturn won’t even look like a planet. It would look more like a bright and shining star in the sky among all the others.
During this period, if we wonder how far away Saturn is, we might not be able to recognize it. We would need a telescope or a powerful pair of binoculars to see the rings of this planet and its massive size. During the opposition stage, Saturn’s apparent magnitude can reach anywhere between -0.5 to 1.1 (at its farthest point).
We now have an idea about how far away Saturn is from the Earth and the Sun. This means that we can begin to determine how long it would take to travel from the Earth to this massive planet.
Saturn has eighty-two moons, out of which fifty-three have been confirmed and named so far. Twenty-nine other moons haven’t yet been officially named and confirmed.
The sizes of these moons vary drastically. Titan is Saturn’s largest moon which is larger than even the planet Mercury (which has a radius of about 2,439.7 kilometers). Its smallest moon is as small as a sports arena and is hardly identifiable.
How Long Does It Take For Light To Travel From The Earth To Saturn?
Let us begin with what we know to make things easy. Light is the fastest of all known objects owing to its lack of mass. The light from the Sun reaches the Earth in eight minutes which is around 499 seconds.
This will now help us depending on how far away Saturn is. If it is at an average distance of 1.4 billion kilometers from the Earth, light takes a minimum of one hour and 21 minutes to reach our eyes.
As we have observed previously, Saturn can orbit around the Sun to quite an extent. So, when it is at its farthest position, the time taken for light to reach our star can vary by a few minutes. This could average between one hour and seven minutes to even one hour and thirty-two minutes.
Hang On A Moment. Are We Time Traveling?
Here’s something interesting to think about. When we consider how far away Saturn is based on the speed of its light, we come across a unique phenomenon. If the light from Saturn takes over an hour to reach us, it means that we are not seeing Saturn as it is now. We are looking at an older version of it that no longer exists.
Let’s make this simpler. If you are sitting before a source of light and it falls on a paper before you, you are looking at what the paper looks like at that moment. You aren’t looking at the version of the paper that existed a few moments earlier.
By the time Saturn’s light reaches the Earth and we are looking at it through a powerful telescope, we would be looking at what it looked like an hour ago! The bottom line is that we are more than an hour behind Saturn’s time at any given instance.
How Long Does It Take For Humans To Reach Saturn?
It is time to jump straight to the main question—how long would it take for a human being to reach Saturn? This depends on a variety of factors:
- How much fuel/weight is the spaceship used for traveling to Saturn?
- What is Saturn’s position at that time?
- What is the speed the spaceship is going to travel at?
- What route is the spaceship going to take?
And loads more aspects to be considered. We could also take into consideration the number of people traveling or which part of the Earth they are beginning the journey from. To make things simple, let us look at the average time taken to reach Saturn from the Earth.
The average time recorded to date is around three years and two months if the spacecraft travels at optimum speed. This could mean that the spaceship uses some form of gravity assistance to enhance its speed and reduce its fuel consumption during the launch.
It also counts whether the spacecraft follows a straight line or some other path to reach Saturn. The starting speed might be slow and the speed at which it reaches the planet must be slower. This is the only way the spacecraft can reach Saturn’s orbit and not fly past its gravitational field.
Saturn is popularly known as the gas giant—and for good reason! This planet doesn’t have a solid surface and is made up of predominantly hydrogen. Even this gas was captured during the early stages of its formation.
The rest of its composition is made up of helium. We can also find traces of methane, ammonia, oxygen, and nitrogen in small doses. Owing to the distance between the Sun and Saturn, the planet does not get much heat.
This makes the gases and the overall temperature of the planet very cold. Even the traces of water present on the planet are in the form of ice. There are several layers of clouds and frequent storms that form on the surface of Saturn. Needless to say, it might not be recommended to begin life on this planet.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Is One Day On Saturn?
One day on Saturn is less than half a day on Earth. This is because the planet rotates at a speed of 9.37 kilometers per second. This means that it can complete one rotation in about ten and a half hours. Considering the Earth’s orbit to be 24 hours, it is even lesser than half that time!
How Long Is One Year On Saturn?
The distance at which Saturn orbits the Sun is larger than that of the Earth. Hence, it takes about 29.45 Earth years for Saturn to complete its orbit around the Sun. Can you believe that the oldest person to live on Saturn was four Saturn years old?
What Seasons Are Witnessed On Saturn?
The Northern Hemisphere is tilted towards the Sun during half of Saturn’s rotation. For the other half of the journey, there are extreme weather changes in the planet’s atmosphere owing to its rapid rotations. There are usually many seasonal storms and constant high winds experienced on Saturn during the second half of its rotation.
Saturn is constantly moving and travels closer and farther to the Sun and the Earth. It is noted that there are times when Saturn is behind the Sun and forms conjunction.
When Saturn is in front of the Sun and the Earth is also on the same side, the distances between the planets change drastically. This way, Saturn’s distance between the Earth varies between 746 million miles and 936 million miles.
Saturn’s oppositions occur once every 54 weeks and it shines the brightest during this time. It is visible as a bright and glowing star in the sky—unless viewed from a telescope or powerful binoculars.
We hope you’ve learnt everything you’ve wanted to know about how far Saturn is and how long does it take to travel there!