Saturn lies an average of 886 million miles (1.4 billion kilometers) from the Sun. Even at that great distance, we can still see it from Earth with our naked eyes. The gas giant is the sixth planet from the Sun, but it’s not always the same distance away from the Sun. Saturn travels in an elliptical orbit, so sometimes, it gets closer to the Sun, and other times it’s farther away.
Saturn is 9.5 astronomical units (AU) from the Sun. Researchers measure a planet’s distance in terms of our planet, where one AU is the distance from Earth to the Sun. Our home planet averages about 93 million miles (150 kilometers) from the solar system’s central star.
Saturn is so far away that it takes sunlight an hour and twenty minutes to travel to the gas giant. At its closest point, the enormous world comes within 9 AU from the Sun, but then it dips back out to a distance of about 10.1 AU.
How Many Miles is Saturn From Earth?
Both Saturn and Earth travel through space at varying speeds. At its closest point, Saturn is 746 million miles (1.2 billion kilometers) away from Earth. That’s about eight times how far away the Sun is from Earth.
When the planets are at their farthest reaches, they’re about a billion miles (1.7 billion kilometers) apart. That’s about eleven times how far away the Sun is from Earth.
How Far is Saturn From the Sun?
It takes Saturn about 10,756 Earth days or 29.4 Earth years to make one complete rotation around the Sun. That’s a long time to wait for a birthday cake!
On the other hand, Saturn has a short day, only taking 10.7 hours to rotate once on its axis. Saturn travels around the Sun in an elliptical path rather than a circular one. So, how many miles Saturn is from the Sun depends on the point in the path.
Saturn stays an average of 886 million miles (1.4 billion kilometers) from the Sun.
- At its perihelion or closest distance, Saturn is 839 million miles (approximately 1,350,239,616 kilometers) from the Sun.
- However, at its aphelion or farthest distance, Saturn orbits about 934 million miles (1.5 billion kilometers) from the Sun.
How many miles Saturn is from the Sun dictates that the gas giant stays cold. Temperatures hover in the negatives at – 288℉ (-178℃.) At those frigid extremes, life, as we know it, cannot exist.
How Long Does it Take Spacecraft To Reach Saturn?
If a regular airline jet traveled from Earth to Saturn at 400 miles per hour (644 kilometers per hour), it would take about 1,865,000 hours or 77,708 days or almost 213 years to make the trip!
The International Space Station orbits Earth at a speed of 17,000 mph (28,000
kph). If it theoretically traveled from Earth to Saturn at its current speed, it would take 43,882 hours or 1,828 days or about five years to get there.
On the other hand, the fastest uncrewed spacecraft was an orbiter that launched in 1976 named Helios-2. With a boost from the Sun’s mass, the orbiter reached speeds up to 157,078 mph (252,792 kph.) If that identical spacecraft could travel from Earth to Saturn, it would take only 4,749 hours or 198 days or just over six months to arrive.
Of course, a more realistic version of the trip from Earth to Saturn comes from NASA’s Cassini mission. It launched on October 15, 1997, and entered the gas giant’s orbit on June 30, 2004. While on the trip, the spacecraft captured data from Venus, Earth, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt, Jupiter, and Saturn’s moons.
When Is the Next Space Mission to Saturn?
NASA’s next scheduled mission to Saturn will head to its largest moon, Titan. Expected to launch in 2027, Dragonfly looks similar to a drone. This quadcopter will make short flights around the moon’s surface.
Scientists say Titan has an atmosphere similar to Earth’ about 3.5 billion years ago. Since life arose on our home planet, researchers hope to study the chemical makeup of Saturn’s most significant satellite. Dragonfly builds on the Cassini-Huygens mission that orbited the gas giant between 2004 and 2017. Huygens landed on the moon Titan in 2005.
Dragonfly plans to search Titan for the building blocks of life. How many miles is Saturn from the Sun? Not so far that human spacecraft can’t reach it!