Saturn to reach opposition next to the Full Strawberry Moon during midweek
By Brian Lada, AccuWeather meteorologist and staff writer
June 27, 2018, 2:59:41 PM EDT
Stargazers will want to point their telescopes at Saturn this week as the ringed planet shines bright as it reaches opposition.
“Saturn is at opposition on [Wednesday] June 27, when it and the sun are at opposite sides of Earth,” NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) said.
This will be the best opportunity of the year to view Saturn as this is when the planet will be closest to Earth, making it appear brighter than normal.
It will also be visible with the unaided eye all night long, rising in the East around sunset and slowly making its way across the sky before setting in the West around sunrise, local time.
Saturn officially reached opposition around 9 a.m. EDT Wednesday, but the best time to see it will not come until Wednesday night when it pairs up with the moon.
This will make it easy for people of all ages to spot Saturn among a sea of countless stars in the night sky.
The pairing will also present photographers with an excellent opportunity as Saturn and the moon will be close enough to easily fit in the same frame, as long as the sky is clear.
June's full moon is often called the Strawberry Moon, which is named because it signaled to the Algonquin tribes that it was the time of year to gather ripening strawberries, according to the Old Farmer's Almanac.
Cloud-free conditions will lead to uninterrupted views of Saturn for much of the western and central United States on Wednesday night.
Meanwhile, clouds will obscure the night sky for many across the Northeast and down the spine of the Appalachian Mountains, as well as parts of the Pacific Northwest.
If clouds block the Saturn opposition on Wednesday night, onlookers will still have plenty of opportunities to see the planet as it will remain visible in the night sky throughout the summer.
However, it will gradually become dimmer later in the summer and will set earlier and earlier each night.
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Although the planet can be seen with the naked eye, looking at the planet through the eyepiece of a telescope can reveal its famous rings.
“If you have never spotted Saturn's rings, now is your chance,” AccuWeather Astronomy Blogger Dave Samuhel said.
“A small telescope is all you need,“ Samuhel added.
A larger telescope may also reveal some of the planet’s largest moons.
People planning to look at Saturn through a telescope should wait until the middle of the night when the planet is high in the sky rather than near sunset or sunrise when Saturn is near the horizon.
Saturn will also serve as a reference point to help people spot a large asteroid.
“Near Saturn, the brightest asteroid, Vesta, is so bright that it can be seen with your unaided eye [and] will be visible for several months,” NASA's JPL said.
Onlookers can see Vesta slightly above and to the right of Saturn.
This is the second of three oppositions in as many months, coming after the Jupiter opposition in May and preceding the Mars opposition in July.
Next month will be one of the best times in several years to view the Red Planet as it will be particularly close to Earth.
“The Mars opposition will be July 27, and it will be perhaps the second closest opposition in nearly 60,000 years, second only to the opposition of 2003,” Samuhel said.
The Mars opposition will also coincide with a total lunar eclipse; however, the eclipse will not be visible in North America.
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