As one of the Jovian planets, Saturn isn’t quite as large as its bigger brother Jupiter. However, it is quite a way further out from Earth, which means it can be difficult to see in the night sky, even with a telescope. So, we know that Saturn is quite a way further out than Earth, but just how far is it? Well, that’s what we’re going to look at.
How long does it take Saturn to revolve around the Sun?
In total Earth years, it takes Saturn 29.4 years for it to make one full revolution around the Sun. This is more than double the amount of time it takes its closest compatriot, Jupiter, to make the same journey. Saturn’s rings are partially due to its position in the outer solar system, but primarily down to its large size and gravitational pull.
However large Saturn is though, it’s still not large enough to escape the gravitational orbit of the Sun. The truth is that there’s a pretty obvious reason why it takes Saturn so long for it to make this long expedition around the Sun.
The first one is that it’s at such a great distance from the Sun, which is the center of our solar system, that it has to travel a great distance. In total, the planet is 886 million miles out from the Sun, which is around 9.5 astronomical units. When you consider that the distance between Earth and the Sun is 1 astronomical unit, it does put it into perspective just how far out it is.
But the distance that Saturn has to travel to get around the Earth isn’t the only reason why it take it so long – however, the distance is a big factor in why. Because it is almost 10AU from the Sun, the gravitational effect on it is much lower than the planets closer to the Sun. This means that it travels at a much slower speed in comparison to the terrestrial planets.
How slow? Well, on average the planet Saturn travels around the Sun at a speed of 21,637 miles per hour. If we compare this to the Earth, which travels at an average speed of 67,000 miles per hour, then we can easily see that it’s less than a third of the speed of Earth. So, when we combine these two together, it’s pretty easy to see why it takes Saturn so long to orbit the Sun. You can check out some more planet Saturn facts.
Saturn orbital pattern and rotation
In comparison to Mercury, which has a very high eccentricity giving it an oval orbit, the path that Saturn follows is pretty circular. However, if we compare it with Earth, then it’s definitely has a noticeably more eccentric orbit than the smaller planet. The eccentricity isn’t necessarily something dictated by how close to the Sun a planet is, as Venus has the lowest eccentricity of any planet.
Another aspect of Saturn we can look at is its rotation, which along with Jupiter, are the two shortest of any of the planets. Whilst Jupiter completes one full rotation in 9.9 hours, Saturn completes a full rotation in 10.7 hours, which means that a full day on both planets is less than half of that on Earth. But why does Saturn rotate much faster than the Earth?
Well, the answer is actually the contributor to the size of the planet. As it was formed, the planet rotated to absorb smaller objects around it, getting faster and faster the more objects that were absorbed. So, this is why it rotates at a faster speed than the Earth, and why it’s much bigger than the Earth too.
In conclusion, whilst in may not take as long as Uranus and Neptune to orbit the Sun, it still takes much longer than any of the terrestrial planets. At 10,000+ Earth days, it’s certainly a long time that will only happen 2 or 3 times in the average persons lifetime. As mentioned, this is a result of both the distance it has to travel, as well as the speed of the planet orbiting the Sun too.