Look up! Saturn shines bright, shows off rings as it reaches opposition.

Science

Space.com 01 August, 2021 - 06:35am 65 views

Look up! Saturn shines bright, shows off rings as it reaches opposition.

KSAT San Antonio 01 August, 2021 - 06:35am

This year Saturn's northern hemisphere will be tilted in our direction at a slant that allows for a nice look at Saturn's rings.

Starting Monday (Aug. 2), you can find Saturn shining 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 with our star by an invisible line, allowing skygazers on Earth to see a fully illuminated Saturn. Saturn reaches this brightest point at about 2 a.m. EDT (0600 GMT) on Monday, according to the website EarthSky.org. It will be highest in the sky around midnight local time and located in the constellation Capricornus. 

Skywatchers will be able to spot several gems, the most obvious being Saturn's rings. This year, Saturn's northern hemisphere will be tilted in our direction at a slant that allows for a nice look at Saturn's rings inclined at an angle of 18 degrees with respect to Earth, according to the website In-The-sky.org. The angle should also allow sunlight to reflect off the icy rings to illuminate them from our perspective. 

Viewers may also get to see Titan, Saturn's largest moon. "Through a small telescope, Titan is actually pretty easy," astronomer Phil Plait told NPR. "If you take a look, you might see a little star right next to Saturn. That might very well be Titan — you can go online and find planetarium software" to confirm it, he said.

Carlos Blanco, a particle physicist at Princeton University and an avid skywatcher, told Space.com that he recommends viewing Saturn with a telescope that offers a narrow field of view and high magnification. 

"In the sky, planets are unique in that they are relatively bright but almost point-like, as opposed to the moon or the Andromeda galaxy, which extend several degrees in the sky," he said. 

"So to get a good look at them, you want to have a scope such that the image you see in the viewfinder is roughly as big as the planet. In other words, the circle that the viewer makes in the sky should be very tight around that point of light," he said. "Roughly speaking, the higher the magnification power 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, because Saturn is one of the most distant objects that people can view in the sky with the naked eye. As a general rule of thumb, Plait recommends finding the brightest point in the night sky (after Venus has set, that is — that planet is easy to recognize because it shines low in the sky after sunset or before sunrise). That bright point is Jupiter, he told NPR, and Saturn will be the next-brightest point in the sky, west of Jupiter

Understanding how opposition works will help, too. Opposition occurs when a planet appears opposite the sun in Earth's sky. In this case, Saturn will climb high in the Northern Hemisphere's sky at night because it is opposite the sun, which is high in the sky on the daytime side. 

Thank you for signing up to Space. You will receive a verification email shortly.

There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.

© Future US, Inc. 11 West 42nd Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10036.

Look up! Saturn shines bright, shows off rings as it reaches opposition.

VICE 01 August, 2021 - 06:35am

This year Saturn's northern hemisphere will be tilted in our direction at a slant that allows for a nice look at Saturn's rings.

Starting Monday (Aug. 2), you can find Saturn shining 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 with our star by an invisible line, allowing skygazers on Earth to see a fully illuminated Saturn. Saturn reaches this brightest point at about 2 a.m. EDT (0600 GMT) on Monday, according to the website EarthSky.org. It will be highest in the sky around midnight local time and located in the constellation Capricornus. 

Skywatchers will be able to spot several gems, the most obvious being Saturn's rings. This year, Saturn's northern hemisphere will be tilted in our direction at a slant that allows for a nice look at Saturn's rings inclined at an angle of 18 degrees with respect to Earth, according to the website In-The-sky.org. The angle should also allow sunlight to reflect off the icy rings to illuminate them from our perspective. 

Viewers may also get to see Titan, Saturn's largest moon. "Through a small telescope, Titan is actually pretty easy," astronomer Phil Plait told NPR. "If you take a look, you might see a little star right next to Saturn. That might very well be Titan — you can go online and find planetarium software" to confirm it, he said.

Carlos Blanco, a particle physicist at Princeton University and an avid skywatcher, told Space.com that he recommends viewing Saturn with a telescope that offers a narrow field of view and high magnification. 

"In the sky, planets are unique in that they are relatively bright but almost point-like, as opposed to the moon or the Andromeda galaxy, which extend several degrees in the sky," he said. 

"So to get a good look at them, you want to have a scope such that the image you see in the viewfinder is roughly as big as the planet. In other words, the circle that the viewer makes in the sky should be very tight around that point of light," he said. "Roughly speaking, the higher the magnification power 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, because Saturn is one of the most distant objects that people can view in the sky with the naked eye. As a general rule of thumb, Plait recommends finding the brightest point in the night sky (after Venus has set, that is — that planet is easy to recognize because it shines low in the sky after sunset or before sunrise). That bright point is Jupiter, he told NPR, and Saturn will be the next-brightest point in the sky, west of Jupiter

Understanding how opposition works will help, too. Opposition occurs when a planet appears opposite the sun in Earth's sky. In this case, Saturn will climb high in the Northern Hemisphere's sky at night because it is opposite the sun, which is high in the sky on the daytime side. 

Thank you for signing up to Space. You will receive a verification email shortly.

There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.

© Future US, Inc. 11 West 42nd Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10036.

Saturn at opposition: How to watch the ringed planet line up with Earth

CNET 30 July, 2021 - 08:40pm

The Hubble Space Telescope took a fresh look at Saturn during its northern hemisphere summer.

Saturn, with its glorious rings, is a gem in the night sky, and a prime Saturn viewing opportunity is coming up. The night of Sunday, Aug. 1 and morning of Monday, Aug. 2 will mark the planet's opposition -- when it's lined up with the sun and Earth is in the middle, like a celestial sandwich.

In its daily skywatching guide, NASA called out early Monday morning as a prime viewing time. "Saturn is directly opposite the sun from Earth on this date. Around the time of opposition it's visible all night, reaching its highest point around midnight," the space agency said.

From the lab to your inbox. Get the latest science stories from CNET every week.

Gas giant Jupiter will be getting in on the opposition action this month, too, with its big date set for Aug. 19. As with Saturn, it will be visible all night and reach its highest point around midnight. 

The annual opposition typically means a planet is brighter than usual, but the Minnesota Institute for Astrophysics notes "the difference will hardly be noticeable, given how far out Jupiter, and especially Saturn, orbit."

A stargazing app can help you dial in the location of Saturn, which will rise in the east as night falls. This is a great time to break out your binoculars for a closer look. Even better, a small telescope can help bring the planet's storied rings into focus. With the right gear, you might even spot its biggest moon Titan looking like a nearby dot of light.

You don't have to hit opposition on the nose to enjoy the spectacle. The ringed planet should be easy to spot in the night sky for days on either side of the main event. The same goes for Jupiter. August is a perfect month for planet-spotting.

Follow CNET's 2021 Space Calendar to stay up to date with all the latest space news this year. You can even add it to your own Google Calendar.      

Science Stories