Saturn will be at its closest point to Earth early on Sunday morning when it reaches opposition. This will place it exactly opposite the sun in our sky.
Opposition has several effects on Saturn, the most important of which marks its arrival in the evening sky. Now, the planet will be visible in our sky all night long.
On Saturday and Sunday night, Saturn will be found in the southeastern sky, provided the weather is cooperating. Along with its arrival in our sky, Saturn’s opposition to the sun also marks its brightest point. This year is particularly special, since the ringed planet will be the brightest it has been in several years.
Astronomers say that Saturn will be at magnitude 0.2, meaning it will outshine the first magnitude star Spica in the constellation Virgo. They measure the brightness of he night sky in terms of magnitude. Lower numbers mean that the star or planet is brighter.
It is easy to spot Saturn in the Earth’s night sky, especially with how bright it will be. If the sky is clear, one can follow the old rule, “Arc to Arcturus, then speed on to Spica.” Meaning you can start by following the arc the Big Dipper’s handle forms. Follow it away from the Dipper’s bowl in a broad arc across the sky.
You will reach Arcturus in the kite-shaped Bootes, then move on to Spica. Saturn can be found in the constellation Virgo. Spica will sparkle in the sky on the right, while Saturn will appear steady on the left. While a star generally appears to be twinkling in the night sky, a planet like Saturn will be more steady, because it appears larger and its light is less affected by atmospheric turbulence.
While a night observer will be able to easily spot Saturn, it is likely you will need a telescope to view the planet’s iconic rings. Some people have claimed to see the rings without a telescope. However, most will need a magnification of about 25 power to spot them. Along with its rings, the planet boasts 62 moons. However, even its brightest moons likely won’t be seen easily.
Are you planning on searching for Saturn at its closest point in Earth’s sky?
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