When you've seen the spectacular rings of Saturn through a telescope, the next obvious feature to look for is its moons.
They present a great target because there are so many of them but a common question is: "How many of Saturn's Moons can I see through a telescope?"
We’re going to answer that for you here.
How Many Moons Does Saturn Have?
Saturn has 53 confirmed and named moons.
A further nine moons are provisional. At least one of those will remain that way until there’s another fly-by of Saturn.
In total, Saturn has 62 moons discovered...so far.
The 62 satellites of Saturn span a spectrum of sizes from over 5000 km across, to this unnamed satellite just three football fields wide!
It's the size of the moons that determines just how many of them can be seen from here on Earth through a telescope.
Saturn's Biggest Moon: Titan
Titan is Saturn’s biggest moon, and by some margin.
In fact, if were not for Ganymede which orbits Jupiter, Titan would be the largest moon in the solar system.
- Titan: 5150km
- Mercury: 4880 km
- The Moon: 3475 km
- Pluto: 2360 km
Titan is a beast of a satellite! As you can see in the table above, it's larger than Mercury and Pluto. For that reason, it is the easiest of Saturn’s moons to see through a telescope.
But, what of the others..?
Saturn's Next Biggest Moons
We'll limit our conversation here to those moons we're likely to find with a decent amateur scope.
We used this calculator to learn that a 6” reflector used under decent skies can show objects down to magnitude 13.5.
Assuming you have at least that power, there are seven of Saturn's satellites (including Titan) within reach of your telescope.
These are the brightest of Saturn's moons because they are also the biggest. You’ll note, though, from the list below, that none of these moons of Saturn comes close to the size of Titan.
From nearest to Saturn outwards, the largest of Saturn’s moons are:
How Many of Saturn's Moons Can I See Through a Telescope?
There are seven of Saturn's moons which you can see through a 6” reflector under dark skies.
In order of difficulty they are: Titan, Rhea, Dione, Tethys, Enceladus, and Mimas.
How to See Saturn's Moons Through a Telescope
To see the moons of Saturn through a telescope you will need an almanac to plan your best viewing time.
Although it is a bit ‘dry’ (it's just a long column of numbers), this Saturn almanac from the United States Navy is definitely the best we’ve found. It identifies the greatest elongation of the brightest moons of Saturn making it simple to plan your own viewing.
There are two ways to use it:
- Pick the day you plan to observe and see what is out, or
- Decide which of Saturn’s moons you’d like to ‘discover’ for yourself. Scroll down to your chosen satellite and plan the best night for observing them.
Which of Saturn's Moons Can I See Tonight?
The best answer to that question is to use Sky & Telescope's Saturn Almanac.
With this easy to use tool you set the date and time you'll be observing, the type of view you have through your scope, i.e. direct, inverted or mirror-reversed and you'll instantly be given a little graphic showing where each of Saturn's five biggest moons (Titan, Enceladus, Dione, Tethys and Rhea) are and what they'll look like in your eyepiece.
The final part of the puzzle is to know if and when the planet Saturn is actually visible, and we'll turn to that next.
When Can I See Saturn?
Before you start looking for Saturn's moons, you need to find Saturn itself. To discover when Saturn is in the night sky, take a look at our guide to the visible planets.
Or, sign up for our weekly Friday email highlighting what’s visible in the night sky for the week ahead.
Finally, if you need a better telescope to see Saturn's moons, then read our guide to the best telescopes for seeing the planets.
Good luck, seeing Saturn’s moons through your telescope!