Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Marvelous views of Saturn

When Saturn reaches astronomical opposition, we’ll be treated to some marvelous views of the ringed and gaseous planet as it stands opposite the sun, from Earth’s perspective. In other words, when Saturn ascends the eastern sky at dusk, the sun will be setting in the west.
Think about this concept: When the moon is full from Earth’s perspective, the moon is opposite the sun. On the evening of a full moon, the lunar orb rises in the east at dusk while the sun sets in the west. It’s the same for Saturn and the sun.

With clear skies at night, Saturn loiters in the constellation Virgo at sundown, near the star Spica. This planet becomes a beacon to find at zero magnitude, which is bright enough to see from urban, light-polluted locations. Through April, it generally remains visible all night long.

Saturn gets a cosmic weekend guest, as the waxing moon approaches it April 16. Find the official full moon April 17, when it becomes this celestial body’s turn to sit opposite the sun.

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