Even though Mars received special treatment for the last couple of weeks, other planets shine equally brighter in the June sky. Saturn rise can be spotted in the southeast, almost every night.
Mars was closest to Earth in more than ten years, and it will appear in the southeastern part of the sky. On the southeastern part, another bright planet meets the eye: Jupiter.
The third planet would be Saturn, appearing also in the southeast, a bit lower left from Mars, almost as bright as the Red Planet.
Saturn is one of the most beautiful planets that can be observed without a telescope. It has been the reason that many people started to be passionate sky searchers.
Earth and Saturn are now the closest they will get to each other this year. The moment is called opposition and involves the Earth coming in a perfect line between the Sun and the massive gas planet.
Saturn comes in opposition with the Earth almost every year, while Mars gets to opposition every 25 months.
While Earth orbits the Sun in 365 days, Saturn needs no less than 29 years to complete a full orbit. Thus, the Saturn rise will be available for observations for an entire night.
Now, Saturn will be at 837 million miles away from the Earth. The distance is 17 times bigger than that of Mars, but Saturn is also 17 times larger in diameter than the Red Planet – without taking into consideration the ring system.
If the conditions are right, an observer could see the separation between Saturn and its rings, and maybe also a couple of the planet’s moons that would look like small stars around the large space body.
Saturn has more than 60 small satellites, out of which the largest by far is Titan. The later has a diameter of 3,200 miles, which means it is bigger than Mercury. Titan has methane lakes and an atmosphere which is also high on methane.
Another Saturnine moon is Enceladus, with a surface that spits liquid water. It is believed that the jets are driven by the tidal forces coming from Saturn, which heat the core of the moon enough to release water. However, no signs of life were discovered there.
For those who want to use a telescope, the best moment is in the middle of the night, when the planet is closer the center of the sky and the Earth’s atmospheric shell is less thick than near the horizon.
The lens must be kept outside for a couple of hours in order to adjust to the temperature, and also the observer must take continuous views through the telescope to accommodate the eyes to the low level of light coming through the instrument.
Apart from the clouds, the upper atmospheric winds can also disrupt the view of Saturn rise. In this case, patience and long views are recommended.
Image Source: Wikipedia
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