Solar System Phenomena — Saturn in 2020

The path of Saturn against the background stars in 2020

The upper chart shows the path of Saturn across the background stars over the course of the year. Stars to magnitude +8.5 are shown. The white circles represent the planet on the first day of the month and are scaled according to apparent magnitude. The faint paths before the first circle and after the last circle represent the planet's positions in December of last year and January of next. In general, the planet moves from right to left except when it's in retrograde and proceding in the opposite direction.

The lower chart shows how the appearance of Saturn changes over the year. Below each image is listed the date, the apparent magnitude, the apparent diameter of the disk (in arc-seconds), the geocentric distance (in au) and the opening angle of the rings. Note that the tilt of Saturn's rings varies subtly throughout the year.

Saturn is not visible in January, undergoing conjunction on 13 January and actually passing behind the disk of the Sun as seen from Earth. It reappears in the morning sky the following month. Mars joins it in Sagittarius during the month of March. Saturn is at its brightest around opposition in July and is an evening sky object for the last half of the year. Jupiter and Saturn undergo a 'Great Conjunction' in December, the first time since May 2000. Both planets will be low in the west at this time as they approach conjunction with the Sun early next year.

01 Januarymaximum declination south
maximum ring opening: 23.6°
12 Januaryplanetary conjunction: 2.0° north of Mercury
13 Januaryconjunction: anti-transit
24 January1.4° north of the Moon
15 Februarydescending node
20 February1.7° north of the Moon
19 March2.1° north of the Moon
21 MarchSagittariusCapricornus
31 Marchplanetary conjunction: 0.9° north of Mars
15 April2.5° north of the Moon
21 Aprilwest quadrature
06 Maymaximum declination north
08 Mayminimum ring opening: 20.5°
11 Maystationary point: direct → retrograde
12 May2.7° north of the Moon
09 June2.7° north of the Moon
03 JulyCapricornusSagittarius
06 July2.5° north of the Moon
20 Julyopposition: magnitude +0.2, apparent diameter 18.5 arc-seconds
02 August2.3° north of the Moon
29 August2.2° north of the Moon
25 September2.3° north of the Moon
29 Septemberstationary point: retrograde → direct
30 Septemberlocal maximum ring opening: 22.8°
18 Octobereast quadrature
23 October2.6° north of the Moon
19 November2.9° north of the Moon
15 DecemberSagittariusCapricornus
21 December0.1° north of Jupiter
31 Decemberlocal minimum ring opening: 20.9°
The tilt of Saturn's rings in 2020

Because the orbits of the planets are tilted slightly to the plane of the ecliptic, a planet normally passes to the north or the south of the Sun at conjunction. However, if the planet is near a node (the place in the orbit where the planet crosses the ecliptic) when it reaches conjunction, the planet may appear to cross in front of or behind the disk of the Sun. This situation occurs in January when Saturn actually passes behind the Sun from the vantage point of Earth. This type of conjunction is sometimes called an anti-transit or secondary eclipse.

The solar conjunction of Saturn in 2020


The dates, times and circumstances of all planetary and lunar phenomena were calculated from the JPL DE406 solar system ephemeris using the same rigorous methods that are employed in the compilation of publications such as The Astronomical Almanac.