Abstract The intensity of the resonantly scattered Ly-α line of the gian planets depends on the scattering column length of atomic hydrogen above the methane layer and on the incident solar flux. We have obtained measurements of the Ly-α brightness of Jupiter and Saturn on December 19, 1979, with a time difference of 111 minutes, which is only slightly longer than the additional travel time for solar photons scattered at Saturn compared to those from Jupiter. This observational technique eliminates two major uncertainties — the use of different instruments and solar variability — affecting previous determinations of the relative brightness of the planets. The measured ratio of the brightness of the subsolar points is 3.0 ± 0.4 which agrees well with the ratio of the incident solar flux of 3.4. This implies approximately equal scattering column lengths of H on both planets.