Saturn’s 2022 opposition: 4 fun and easy things to see

Saturn's 2022 opposition: Two labeled images of Saturn, the one on the left appreciably larger.
When an outer planet reaches opposition – that is, when Earth passes between that planet and the sun – we’re generally closest to it for the year, and it appears brightest in our sky. Here’s why. This is a comparison of the apparent size of Saturn at opposition (next on August 14, 2022) and when it’s most distant from Earth at solar conjunction (on the far side of the sun as seen from Earth, next on February 16, 2023) . Image via Dominic Ford’s In-the-Sky.org.

Saturn’s 2022 opposition comes on August 14

Once each year, Earth passes between the sun and the 6th planet, Saturn. Our motion brings Saturn opposite the sun in our sky, to a place called opposition by astronomers. In 2022, Saturn’s opposition will come on August 14.

Opposition marks the middle of the best time of year to see an outer planet. During the weeks around its opposition, Saturn is generally at its closest to Earth and brightest for the year. It’s a beautiful and noticeable golden “star” in our night sky. Plus, because it’s opposite the sun, it’s up all night!

You need a telescope to see the rings of Saturn. But you can enjoy the planet with the eye alone. Here are four fun and easy observations you can make with just your eyes, during Saturn’s opposition month in 2022.

Want to know more about Saturn’s opposition? Click here

In August 2022, Saturn and the Teapot

Dark sky with a star, planet and asterism.
How can you find Saturn in the night sky? One hint is its brightness in August 2022. It’s brighter than most stars. Also, it shines with a golden color and steady light. And it follows the same path across our sky that the sun travels during the day (the ecliptic, or green line on our charts). In 2022, if you have a dark sky, you’ll find Saturn in the sky near a very noticeable pattern: the famous Teapot asterism in Sagittarius. For much of the night in August 2022, Saturn follows the Teapot as Earth spins under the sky. Watch for them to rise as darkness falls in early August, and at sunset by mid-August. By the way, Sagittarius and its Teapot mark the direction to the center of our Milky Way galaxy. Have fun gazing… and contemplating! Chart via John Jardine Goss / EarthSky.

In August 2022, 2 stars reveal Saturn’s motion

Binocular view of Saturn in August.
Because Earth passes between Saturn and the sun in August 2022, bringing the planet to its yearly opposition, Saturn is moving to the west – instead of to the east – in front of the “fixed stars.” That westward motion is called retrograde motion. This month, use binoculars to track Saturn’s westward motion relative to 2 faint stars of the constellation Capricornus, Gamma and Delta. Chart via John Jardine Goss / EarthSky.

August 11-12, 2022, overnight: Full moon near Saturn

Dark sky with 3 different size circles showing the full moon, Saturn and Altair.
The August 2022 full moon – a supermoon – rises near sunset on August 11. Immediately above it is the planet Saturn, which reaches opposition a few days later on August 14. At opposition, Earth lies between Saturn and the sun. And Earth is between the moon and sun (not exactly between, but pretty close) every time we have a full moon. So it’s no accident Saturn is near the moon during the month of its opposition. Also, watch for Altair in the constellation Aquila, nearby. Chart via John Jardine Goss / EarthSky.

In August 2022, use Saturn to see the ‘arrowhead’ in Capricornus

White dots of different sizes for Saturn and constellation Capricornus with green line showing ecliptic.
On August evenings in 2022, Saturn is in front of the faint constellation Capricornus the Sea-Goat. At its August 14 opposition, Saturn rises in the east at sunset and is visible all night. But a bright moon is also in the sky then. If you wait until a bit later in the month, you’ll find Saturn rising just after sunset, and in a darker sky. And then if your sky is truly dark, you can use Saturn to guide your eye to the faint “arrowhead” shape of Capricornus in our sky. Chart via John Jardine Goss / EarthSky.

Bottom line: In August – the month of Saturn’s 2022 opposition – 4 fun and easy things to watch for with the eye alone.

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