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Saturn in Opposition 2016

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by Roy Chambers (subscribe)
Lover of all things interesting and new
Event: -
on June 3rd Saturn will be at its closest to the Earth
Saturn, with its rings, is one of the great heavenly bodies to observe. Like other planets, its distance from the Earth changes all the time. On June 3, 2016 it will be in opposition, that is on the opposite side of the Earth from the sun and also closest to the Earth.

Photo of Saturn courtesy of Steve Hill @ Flickr
Photo of Saturn courtesy of Steve Hill @ Flickr


Saturn in Opposition

The planets follow stately orbits around the Sun, with each planet proceeding at different speeds and taking a different number of days to complete a single orbit. Saturn takes 29 Earth years to complete an orbit. This means that sometimes Earth and Saturn are far apart on opposite sides of the Sun and at other times closer together, as will happen on June 3.

While June 3 is the peak day for viewing Saturn, it will be worth turning your telescopes to view Saturn for several weeks around June 3. So don't worry if the weather is bad or you can't get access to a telescope on that exact day.

Viewing Saturn

On June 3, Saturn will rise on the East Coast of Australia at 5:53 in the evening and set in the morning at 5:37. It will be at its peak at 11:43 pm.

There is no reason why you can't do some Saturn spotting with the naked eye. It will appear as a golden tinged star in the constellation Scorpius near Antares, the brightest star in that constellation. Mars, which is also in opposition, will also be visible further up from the horizon.

Photo of the constellation Scorpius courtesy of Tell Credner @ Wikimedia Commons
Photo of the constellation Scorpius courtesy of Tell Credner @ Wikimedia Commons


To really view it you will need a telescope. You should be able to make out the rings with even a modest astronomical telescope. But certainly it is that time of the year to seek out local astronomy clubs in your area. Most have open viewing nights. Some will head out to country areas and others will set up their telescopes in a park that isn't too far from the city, but away from city lights.

The main feature everyone wants to see for themselves are the rings of Saturn. With Saturn so close, they should be clearly visible.

Saturn Facts

There was a lot confusion about Saturn's rings when there were first observed through a telescope. Galileo and other early astronomers thought they were moons.

There are in fact numerous moons circling Saturn. Including all the little moons, there are over 150 moons. However, only 53 of them have formal names. Titan is Saturn's largest moon.

The rings change all the time, sometimes with gaps between them and sometimes not.

Saturn is mostly hydrogen and is the least dense planet in the solar system.
Like Jupiter, Saturn is covered in bands of coloured clouds with various storms raging across the surface.
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Why? See Saturn's rings for yourself
When: From around sunset to dawn
Where: Just after sunset in the constellation Scorpius
Your Comment
Awesome, time to set the telescope up again.
by Gayle Beveridge (score: 3|5347) 305 days ago
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