For most of human history, Saturn was the farthest known planet from Earth. This changed in the early 1600s when Galileo Galilei discovered Jupiter’s four largest moons.
Suddenly, it became clear that there were planets beyond Saturn. Over the next few centuries, more distant worlds were discovered, first Uranus and Neptune, then Pluto.
But even as our solar system seemed to grow larger, our understanding of Saturn’s place within it also changed.
In the late 1800s, astronomers began to realize that Pluto was too small and too different from the other planets to be considered a true member of the solar system.
As a result, Saturn once again became the farthest known planet from Earth.
However, this title was short-lived. In 2006, Pluto was officially reclassified as a dwarf planet, and Saturn once again took its place as the most distant world in our solar system, making it the sixth planet from the sun.
How far away is Saturn from Earth?
Currently, Saturn is approximately 890 million miles (1.43 billion kilometers) away from Earth. This distance varies slightly over time due to the orbital motions of both planets.
At its closest approach, known as “perihelion,” Saturn can come within 839 million miles (1.35 billion kilometers) of Earth.
At its furthest distance, or “aphelion,” Saturn can be 941 million miles (1.51 billion kilometers) away from our planet.
When viewed from Earth, Saturn appears to move slowly in the night sky due to its distance. It takes approximately 29.5 Earth years for the planet to complete one orbit around the sun.
A year on Saturn, however, is only about 10 and a half Earth hours long.
How long would it take to get to Saturn?
Due to the immense distance between Earth and Saturn, it would take a spacecraft many years to reach the planet.
Currently, the fastest spacecraft ever launched, NASA’s New Horizons probe took nearly 9 years to reach Pluto.
At a much greater distance from Earth, it would likely take a similar amount of time or longer for a spacecraft to reach Saturn. However, potential future missions to Saturn may include technologies that could greatly decrease travel time.
The exploration of Saturn has been ongoing for decades, but there is still much to be discovered about this distant planet.
The Cassini spacecraft spent over 13 years studying Saturn and its moons before intentionally plunging into the planet’s atmosphere in 2017.
NASA’s Juno spacecraft has been studying Jupiter since 2016 and will continue to do so until at least 2021.
And future missions, including a proposed Saturn probe from the European Space Agency, may further our understanding of this distant world.
How far is Saturn from the Sun?
Saturn orbits the sun at an average distance of 886 million miles (1.426 billion kilometers), or 9.5 astronomical units (AU).
This means that it is approximately 9 and a half times as far from the sun as Earth is. At its closest approach, known as “perihelion,” Saturn comes within 839 million miles (1.35 billion kilometers) of the sun.
At its furthest distance, or “aphelion,” Saturn can be 941 million miles (1.51 billion kilometers) from the sun.
Interestingly, while Saturn takes roughly 29.5 Earth years to complete one orbit around the sun, a year on Saturn is only about 10 and a half Earth hours long.
This is because the planet rotates very quickly on its axis, causing each day on Saturn to be shorter than a day on Earth.
Over the years, our understanding of Saturn’s place within our solar system has changed.
Once considered the most distant planet from Earth, it is now only the sixth planet from the sun.
Its distance varies slightly over time due to the orbital motions of both planets, and at its closest approach, it can be as close as 839 million miles (1.35 billion kilometers) from Earth.
It takes approximately 29.5 Earth years for Saturn to complete one orbit around the sun, and a year on Saturn is only about 10 and a half hours long.
While we have explored Saturn for decades, there is still much to be discovered about this distant world.