Saturn at Opposition: See Ringed Planet at Its Brightest on August 27, 2023 | Almanac.com

Saturn at Opposition: See Ringed Planet at Its Brightest on August 27, 2023

how to see saturn at it's brightest for the year, saturn in opposition

Tips on how see Saturn at its closest point to Earth

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This weekend, the Ringed Planet will be its brightest, reaching its opposition (its closest point to Earth) on August 27, 2023!  In our culture of publicity and hard sell, it’s tempting to exaggerate. But Saturn never disappoints. Here are Bob Berman’s tips on how to see it.

Through any telescope with more than 30x, Saturn elicits gasps. Yet, oddly, photos of the ringed world fail to pack the same visceral punch. You have to see it for yourself.

Saturn Closest to Earth

This is the time. On August 27, the Ringed Planet will be at its 2023 opposition—at its very nearest to Earth and well-placed for viewing.

“Opposition” is Saturn’s very closest point to Earth of the entire year. On this day, Earth passes right between the Sun and Saturn. With the Ringed Planet opposite the Sun, its face is fully illuminated. 

Saturn, the sixth planet from the Sun, will shine at its very brightest. The Ringed Planet will be close, big, and bright from mid-August through mid-September.

More importantly, those fabled rings, which will be edgewise and vanish in 2025, are still “open” enough to reveal exquisite detail. Note: Its beautiful ring system isn’t visible to the unaided eye, but you’ll need binoculars or a small telescope.

In 2023, ice moon Tethys is transiting, casting its shadow across Southern Hemisphere cloud bands, while Saturn’s cold blue south pole is emerging from almost a decade of winter darkness.

Seeing Saturn’s Rings

Through even small backyard telescopes, the thinner, darker outer ring, the unimaginatively named “A ring,” is clearly separated from the broader, whiter B ring by an inky-black space. This is the famous Cassini Division, a gap that shows up wonderfully with only 100x on nights when the stars are steady and not twinkling.

Those rings are fashioned of countless chunks of ordinary water ice, typically the size of beach balls. The rings span 100,000 miles but are only about 35 feet thick. So thin, they’re analogous to a sheet of paper the size of a city block. 

Twice as reflective as the ball of Saturn, the rings double Saturn’s brightness when they present their maximum face toward Earth and the Sun as they did four years ago. The hemisphere being tilted our way since 2009—and continuing even now—is the north face, the one whose pole is surrounded by a bizarre hexagon 60 miles high.

saturns icy rings
Saturn’s icy rings are just a few hundred million years old. Credit: NASA/JPL

How to Find Saturn in the Night Sky

Say you’re sold and want to find Saturn for yourself. If it were one of the sky’s most dazzling stars, the way Venus or Jupiter always are, this would be a piece of cake. But it’s easy anyway.


While Saturn is at “opposition” in late August, the planet doesn’t change much month to month, so start looking the next time you have a clear night this month.

Saturn will have risen by 8:30 P.M., but look around midnight when the planet shines at its highest. 

See Saturn’s rise and set times for your location.


Face towards the south-southeast. Around midnight, look about a third of the way up the sky. Saturn only gets to about 35 degrees high in the south at its highest, near the zodiac constellation Aquarius.

Saturn is the ONLY bright star in that location. The Ringed Planet glows slightly brighter than a first-magnitude star all night. 

Another hint is that stars generally twinkle, and planets do not. Saturn will shine steadily and appear as a golden-colored object. 

If you’re still not absolutely sure, well, on Wednesday, August 30, it will hover right next to the Full Moon, so put that in your calendar app.

Saturn reaching opposition on August 27, 2023. Credit: Adler Planetarium

You’ll see why Saturn is such a fail-safe customer-satisfaction target through any size telescope. Galileo, 403 years ago, could see that something was definitely screwy about Saturn, but to him the rings looked like a pair of handles like those on a sugar bowl. His telescopes just weren’t good enough and you can’t blame him, since nowhere on Earth is there any kind of ball surrounded by unattached rings. 

So phone your local astronomy club or reach out to that friend with a telescope, and give it a look. You’ve got months to act. When you do, you won’t be sorry. 

Learn more fascinating facts about the planet Saturn.

About The Author

Bob Berman

Bob Berman, astronomer editor for The Old Farmer’s Almanac, covers everything under the Sun (and Moon)! Bob is the world’s most widely read astronomer and has written ten popular books. Read More from Bob Berman

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