Saturn, Saturn's Retrogrades &
Earth-Saturn Synodic Cycles

This synodic cycle illustration reveals the dates and locations in the ecliptic (sidereal zodiak) of the Earth-Saturn Synodic Cycles occurring from 1953 through 2016. Each synodic cycle theme is defined by the (heliocentric) star alignments at the time of the synod. This illustration makes apparent how synodic cycles create a spiral of growth in consciousness, much like the spiraling lunar cycles. The basics about planetary synods are presented at Planetary Synodic Cycles.

Earth Saturn synodic cycles

Saturn's sidereal period (orbit around sun / a Saturn year) takes 29.42 Earth-years. Each Earth-Saturn Synodic Cycle has an average duration of 376 Earth-days. Because Saturn's orbit is slightly eccentric (not a perfect circle) at 0.05552, Saturn speeds up and slows down during its annual orbit around the Sun. The cycle's duration is slightly longer when Saturn is moving faster in its orbit around the sun, at the time surrounding its perihelion (when it is closest to the sun); and slightly shorter when Saturn is moving slower (when Saturn is at its aphelion). This occurs because Earth catches up to Saturn sooner in their orbits when Saturn is moving slower compared to when Saturn is moving faster. Saturn's recent perihelion occurred on July 9, 2003 in sidereal Gemini, its aphelion will occur in 2018, and its next perihelion in 2032. This change of duration between synods can also be seen in the illustration. Notice there are about two synodic cycles per sign when they are occurring in sidereal Gemini, and nearly three when in sidereal Sag.

Saturn Cassini

With giant Saturn hanging in the blackness and sheltering Cassini from the Sun's blinding glare, the spacecraft viewed the rings as never before.

This marvelous panoramic view was created by combining a 165 images taken by the Cassini wide-angle camera over nearly three hours on Sept. 15, 2006. The mosaic images were acquired as the spacecraft drifted in the darkness of Saturn's shadow for about 12 hours, allowing a multitude of unique observations of the microscopic particles that comprise Saturn's faint rings.

Image & Caption Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
The Cassini Solstice Mission

Saturn's orbit is tilted only slightly in the ecliptic at 2.449°. Saturn crossed its ascending (north) node (the location in its orbit where it crosses from south of the ecliptic to north of the ecliptic) at cuspal Gemini-Cancer on Jan 9 2005. Saturn will cross its descending (south) node fifteen years later on Feb 12, 2020 at cuspal Sag-Capricorn.

Saturn's Closest Approach

Saturn's Rings

Saturn's Rings
Image credit: Cassini spacecraft NASA

The Cassini Mission Home Page
Latest news, images and videos

Saturn is closest to Earth at each synod during Earth's orbit around the Sun. This is of course the best time to see Saturn. Although, how close is a function of where Saturn is in its own eccentric orbit. During Earth's 29.42-year orbit around the Sun, Earth and Saturn are closest near Saturn's perihelion (when Saturn is closest to the Sun during its orbit). Saturn's last perihelion occurred on July 3, 2003. The Earth-Saturn synod closest to Saturn's perihelion occurred on Dec 31, 2003 in mid-sidereal Gemini—thus the synod occurring when Saturn was closest to Earth. Saturn's next perihelion occurs on Dec 8, 2032.

Astrologically, the synods occurring around Saturn's perihelion are naturally more significant—those occurring now—as well as those occurring near Saturn's nodes.

Saturn's Retrogrades & Synods 2003-2020

Saturn's Retrogrades 2003-2020

Saturn's retrogrades (and synods) occur on the average of every 12.5 months and each retrograde period averages 4.5 months. There are 15 retrogrades occurring between Saturn's South Node (2003) and Saturn's North Node (2020), shown in the illustration above. Saturn and Pluto will begin a new ~34-year synodic cycle on January 10, 2020 near Saturn's South Node in sidereal Sagittarius. The first new Earth-Saturn synod cycle nesting within the Saturn-Pluto synodic cycle begins on July 20, 2020, past Saturn's South Node. Articles about each Earth-Saturn synodic cycle can be found on the Synodic Cycles Web page.

Saturn's Rings

Saturn's Ring Plane Crossing

Saturn's Ring Tilt
Image credit: Hubble - NASA

Due to Saturn's tilt and Earth's changing orbital position, Saturn's rings tilt in and out of view over time. Saturn's rings tilt out of view when they are edge-on as viewed from Earth. This is called Saturn's "ring plane crossing."

Saturn's rings are edge-on to the Sun two times during Saturn's 29.42-year orbit. Because Earth's orbit is relatively close to the Sun compared to the vast distance to Saturn, we see the edge-on view nearly at the same time from Earth. However, there may be one or three Saturn ring plane crossings each time (every 15 years). When there is one crossing, Earth and Saturn are on opposites sides of the Sun, thus not visible to us. When there are three crossings, the middle crossing occurs close to the Earth-Saturn synod, thus we can see the rings disappearing from view).

Saturn's next "ring plane crossing" occurs on Sept 4, 2009.

Saturn's Super Ring

Saturn's Super Ring

"The artist's conception illustrates the extent of the largest ring around Saturn, discovered by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope (2009). The ring is huge, and far from the gas planet and the rest of its majestic rings. The bulk of the ring material starts about six million kilometers (3.7 million miles) away from the planet and extends outward roughly another 12 million kilometers (7.4 million miles). The diameter of the ring is equivalent to 300 Saturns lined up side to side. The ring is thick too—it's about 20 times as thick as the diameter of the planet. In fact, the entire volume of the ring is big enough to hold one billion Earths! Saturn's newest halo is tilted at about 27 degrees from the main ring plane and encompasses the orbit of the moon Phoebe. Both the ring and Phoebe orbit in the opposite direction of Saturn's other rings and most of its moons, including Titan and Iapetus.

The pictures of Saturn, Phoebe and Iapetus were taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft. The ring is an artist's illustration. The size of Phoebe relative to Iapetus has been enlarged to better show Phoebe. Phoebe is about 200 kilometers (124 miles) in diameter, while Iapetus is about 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) across."

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

More Information about Saturn's Super Ring

Saturn's Hex

Saturn's North Pole Hexagon

Saturn's North Pole Hexagon and Aurora
Image credit:
NASA/JPL/University of Arizona


Saturn's North Pole Hexagon and Aurora:
"This nighttime view of Saturn's north pole by the visual and infrared mapping spectrometer on NASA's Cassini orbiter reveals a dynamic, active planet at least 75 kilometers (47 miles) below the normal cloud tops seen in visible light. Clearly revealed is the bizarre six-sided hexagon feature present at the north pole."
Full Story: NASA/JPL

Saturn's Hex is a quite fitting astronomical feature characteristic of Saturn's astrological quality. The nature of the Hex "6" is to fix, to concretize—hence the phrase "to put a hex on." See "The Unfoldment of Number" for the quality of "6" and how it unfolds in natural harmonics.

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