Saturn is the sixth planet from the sun and is quite far from us here on Earth. In between Earth and Saturn lies Mars, the asteroid belt, and Jupiter. That is a lot of stuff between here and there. So how far is Saturn from Earth?
Saturn orbits the sun in an elliptical orbit which means that the distance between Earth and Saturn is constantly changing. At its farthest point from Earth, when the two planets stand opposite each other in their orbits, Saturn is a billion miles away. When the two planets are at their closest point they are 746 million miles apart. The average distance between Earth and Saturn is roughly 875 million miles.
Unlike the distance between Los Angeles and New York, the distances between objects in space are constantly changing due to everything being in motion. The distance between LA and NYC is static because their positions on the surface of the Earth do not change. As the Earth and Saturn orbit the sun, they are either moving towards each other or away from each other at all times. This makes measuring the exact distance between ourselves and Saturn tricky.
In fact, Saturn travels through space at a blistering 21,000mph. The Earth orbits the sun at an even higher speed, roughly 67,000mph. So at any given time, the distance between the Earth and Saturn could be changing at tens of thousands of miles per hour.
How long would it take to fly to Saturn?
The amount of time it takes to get to Saturn depends on your method of travel. We have been sending probes into the deep reaches of our solar system for decades and each one has taken a different amount of time to reach Saturn. The orbital probes reached the Ringed Planet in six or seven years at their speeds.
The fastest probe reached Saturn in just over a year using a variety of gravitational assists and smart planning by engineers.
But humans would have a hard time traveling at the speed of an interstellar probe. What if you flew via plane? Your standard passenger aircraft travel at around 575mph. That means if you boarded a plane for Saturn it would take 72,464 days. That is 198 Earth years’ worth of travel.
What if you could travel to Saturn in the old space shuttles? Surely, those must be faster. A trip in the space shuttle to Saturn would take 2,381 days or 6.5 Earth years. That is much more manageable but still a very, very long time.
Those calculations are based on Saturn’s farthest distance from Earth so depending on the current position along its orbital path and potential use of other planets for gravitational slingshot assistance, the time could fluctuate.
How long does it take light from Saturn to get to Earth?
Saturn is one of the brightest objects in the night sky and is easily visible with the naked eye on a clear night. When we look up at the stars, the light that hits our eyes has taken a long time to travel from its source to the Earth. The light from some stars has taken hundreds, even thousands, of years to reach us. Space is massive and light takes time to travel through the void like anything else.
The light from Saturn takes 1 hour and 30 minutes to reach Earth. The light from the sun takes 8 minutes and 20 seconds to reach the Earth. From those numbers, you can tell just how far away Saturn is.
All of the light from Saturn is reflected light from our sun. That means that once the light leaves the surface of the sun, where it is created, it travels all the way to Saturn, bounces off its clouds, and returns to Earth. That entire process takes about 170 minutes or just under three hours to take place.
This process is continually taking place in our solar system. Saturn is only one object that reflects the sun’s light. The moon also reflects the sun’s light. As do the other visible planets in the night sky. Saturn is the most distant thing in our solar system that is viewable with the naked eye, and its light takes the longest to reach us.
I love looking through my Best Telescopes For Viewing Planets and seeing Saturn.
We are constantly discovering things about this beautiful plant, and we have many posts on my blog. Like What Color Is Saturn to How Long Is a Day On Saturn. We keep adding more interesting facts about Saturn, so keep coming back for more.