Prepare for the annual show of Saturn in the night sky!
Starting Monday (August 2), you can see Saturn shine in the sky as part of a celestial phenomenon called opposition. Earth and the ringed planet will be on the same side of the sun and connected to our star by an invisible line, allowing sky watchers on Earth to see a fully illuminated Saturn. Saturn reached this brightest point around 2:00 a.m. EDT (0600 GMT) on Monday, according to the EarthSky.org website. It will be highest in the sky around midnight local time and located in the constellation Capricorn.
Sky watchers will be able to spot several gemstones, the most obvious being the rings of Saturn. This year, Saturn’s northern hemisphere will tilt in our direction at a tilt that allows a good overview of Saturn’s rings tilted at an angle of 18 degrees to Earth, according to the In-The-sky.org website. . The angle should also allow sunlight to reflect off the icy rings to illuminate them from our perspective.
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Viewers can also see Titan, Saturn’s largest moon. “Thanks to a small telescope, Titan is actually quite easy,” astronomer Phil Plait told NPR. “If you take a look you might see a little star right next to Saturn. It could very well be Titan – you can go online and find planetarium software” to confirm that, he said. .
Carlos Blanco, a particle physicist at Princeton University and avid sky-watching enthusiast, told Space.com he recommends observing Saturn with a telescope that offers a narrow field of view and high magnification.
“In the sky, the planets are unique in that they are relatively bright but almost point-like, unlike the moon or the Andromeda galaxy, which extend several degrees across the sky,” he said. declared.
“So to see them well, you want to have a range such that the image you see in the viewfinder is about as large as the planet. In other words, the circle that the viewer makes in the sky should be very narrow around that point of light, “he said.” Basically, the higher the magnification of the telescope, the smaller the field of view, and vice versa. “
Blanco recommends an 8-inch Dobsonian telescope; check out Space.com’s list of this year’s best telescopes for recommendations.
Don’t worry if you can’t locate a telescope in time, as Saturn is one of the farthest objects people can see in the sky with the naked eye. As a general rule, Plait recommends finding the brightest point in the night sky (after Venus has set, i.e. this planet is easy to recognize because it shines low in the sky after sunset or before sunrise). That bright spot is Jupiter, he told NPR, and Saturn will be the next brightest spot in the sky, west of Jupiter.
Understanding how the opposition works will also help. The opposition occurs when a planet appears opposite the sun in the Earth’s sky. In this case, Saturn will rise high in the northern hemisphere sky at night because it is opposite the sun, which is high in the sky on the daytime side.
Follow Doris Elin Urrutia on Twitter @salazar_elin. follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.