Astrophotography: Saturn Over Five Years

20 May

On May 22, Saturn will be at its biggest and brightest for 2015. I’ve been photographing the ringed planet through my telescope since 2011, and its appearance has changed substantially since then!

You can see that the quality of the images has improved over the years as my equipment and technique has evolved. You can also see how the rings are more “open” now than they were in 2011.

Saturn GIF

Animated GIF of my Saturn photos, each frame taken one year apart. Saturn with a handheld video camera (2011), a DSLR (2012), and an iPhone (2013, 2014, 2015) through a 5″ telescope (2011) and an 8″ telescope (2012-2015.)

The Tilt of Saturn

Like Earth, Saturn’s axis is tipped. This allows us to catch a different view of the planet’s ring system as Saturn moves around the Sun. In 2009, the rings appeared extremely thin (and seemed to disappear altogether in small telescopes) because we were looking at them “edge-on” from Earth. In 2017, the rings will be very “open” to us.


Saturn’s axis is “tipped” 27 degrees relative to its orbit. This gives us ever-changing views of Saturn’s rings (from “edge-on” to “above” or “below”) as it moves around the Sun. Photo Credit: Tom Ruen

If you want to have a look at Saturn for yourself in May, it’s visible to the naked eye. Look for a moderately bright, non-twinkling star in the Southeast after sunset. You can also read an in-depth guide to Saturn’s 2015 appearance by David Dickinson over at Universe Today.

If you want to see more of my Saturn (and other astronomy) photos, please visit my Flickr page!



3 Responses to “Astrophotography: Saturn Over Five Years”

  1. Jim in IA May 20, 2015 at 10:53 pm #

    I like your animation of the changing views. I am still waiting here in Iowa for some clearing of the skies. My telescope is ready.

    I have a post your readers might find interesting on the opposition of Saturn. I invite you and them to take a look.

    Keep up the good work. Clear skies to you.

    • canadianastronomy May 21, 2015 at 9:53 am #

      Thanks, Jim! I like your post and may share it this week via Twitter! Cheers.

      • Jim in IA May 21, 2015 at 12:01 pm #

        I would appreciate it if you shared it. Thanks.

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