Tonight: See Saturn’s rings as it makes closest pass by Earth
Grab your telescopes and binoculars on July 9. Saturn will reach opposition, which means it will be at its closest approach to our planet. This makes it a great opportunity to see the gas giant and its dazzling rings.
Get your telescope ready for Tuesday night as Saturn, the ringed jewel of our solar system, shines brighter than any other time of the year.
While the planet is best seen through the eyepiece of a telescope, onlookers will not need one this week as Saturn will be at opposition. This is the point in its orbit when it is closest to the Earth.
Cloud-free skies are expected on Tuesday night across much of the interior West, southern Plains and Northeast, leading to uninterrupted viewing.
Meanwhile, rain and clouds will result in poor viewing conditions for residents along the West Coast, in the Midwest and across the Southeast.
People that miss Saturn on Tuesday night due to clouds can look for it again any night through the rest of July as it will appear nearly as bright and in the same part of the sky.
How to find Saturn in the night sky
Saturn will be above the horizon all night long, rising in the southeast around sunset and slowly gliding across the sky before setting in the southwest around dawn.
No special equipment is needed to see the planet as it is bright enough to see with the unaided eye, but a telescope is required to be able to see the planet’s famous rings. These rings are made up of pieces of ice, dust and debris orbiting the planet.
An image of Saturn taken through a telescope on June 8, 2018. (Photo/Charlie Golden)
A telescope may also allow folks to see Titan, the planet’s largest moon and the only moon in the solar system that has a dense atmosphere.
For those that are new to using telescopes, Saturn is a good target as it is easy to find and revels great detail about the planet. This is a good stepping stone before trying to find dimmer, more challenging objects with a telescope, such as galaxies or nebulas.
People that are having a tough time finding Saturn can use a nearby planet as a guide.
Jupiter just reached opposition in June and is still bright in the sky most of the night, out-shining all of the stars and even Saturn.
Once you have located Jupiter in the southern sky, it should be easier to spot Saturn. The two planets are not right next to each other, but Saturn should be off to the left of Jupiter.
The nights of July 16 and July 17 will also be easy nights to find Saturn as the Full Thunder Moon will be glowing brightly right next to the ringed planet.
Saturn will continue to be visible through much of the rest of the year, but will gradually grow dimmer heading into the autumn and winter.Report a Typo
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