How to find saturn

Saturn is currently in the constellation of Capricornus. The current Right Ascension is 21h 40m 21s and the Declination is -14° 57’ 02”.

  • Saturn is below the horizon from Greenwich, United Kingdom [change].
  • Given its current magnitude, Saturn is visible to the naked eye, easy and bright under dark skyes, might be more difficult from heavily light pollyuted areas.
  • See also Saturn rise and set times.
  • Go to interactive sky chart

Tip: you can also create a Quick Access page for this data if you access it frequently and would like to have a simpler view.

Below you can see a simplified sky chart showing where Saturn is right now in the sky with respect to the brightest stars and constellations. More advanced sky charts for Saturn are available on TheSkyLive: 1) the Online Planetarium which is interactive and allows to select dates and additional objects to visualize; and 2) the Live Position and Data Tracker which provides the highest precision position data and features deep sky imagery from the Digitized Sky Survey.

How to find saturn

= visible to the naked eye
= binocular, brighter than 10th magnitude
= current altitude ≥ 30° = current altitude < 30° = below the horizon
Location: Greenwich, United Kingdom [change]

Here’s how to see planets visible in April’s night sky.

  • Mercury
  • Venus
  • Mars
  • Jupiter
  • Saturn

Take a look into the April night skies to see the brightest planets in the night sky. Three, and then by April’s second week, four planets will be available for early risers who are up by or soon after the break of dawn. They will be all clustered low in the east-southeast part of the sky.

Venus is by far the brightest, but in close proximity though only about a hundredth as bright are Mars and Saturn. Jupiter, second in brightness to Venus, begins to make itself evident during the second week of this month and will spend the rest of April slowly creeping closer to Venus. They will make for an eye-catching pair low in the east-southeast sky at month’s end. And along the way, the moon will pass all four planets: Saturn on April 25, Mars on April 26 and Venus and Jupiter on April 27.

Meanwhile, holding court in the evening sky all by itself, shines Mercury during the second half of April, low in the west-northwest about a half-hour after sundown; its best evening apparition for this year.

In our schedule, remember that when measuring the angular separation between two celestial objects, your clenched fist held at arm’s length measures roughly 10-degrees. Here, we present a schedule below which provides some of the best planet viewing times as well directing you as to where to look to see them.

—Best telescopes for viewing the night sky


Mercury reaches superior conjunction on the far side of the sun on April 2, but then vaults into dusk visibility during mid-April. Skywatchers around latitude 40 degrees north who look 30 minutes after sunset will find Mercury shining at least 10 degrees above the west-northwest horizon from April 18 to May 6.

Although Mercury fades 0.1 magnitude per day, during the latter half of the month, the planet will present mid-northern observers with its best apparition of the year. On April 29, Mercury reaches its greatest elongation, 21 degrees east of the sun; as twilight deepens, use binoculars to see the Pleiades 1.5 degrees to the upper right of the planet. On the evening of May 6, Mercury will be within 10 degrees of the orange star Aldebaran, though the planet will have faded to magnitude +1.6.


Just past its greatest elongation from the sun (March 20) Venus is by far the brightest and easiest planet to see in April’s dawn twilight. Nevertheless, it’s less than 20 degrees high at sunrise for observers around latitude 40 degrees north during this month, and its blaze dims a little during April as its globe shrinks as it recedes from Earth.

On April 1, early risers, about 75 minutes before sunrise can look very low near the east-southeast horizon for a cluster of not one, but three planets this morning. Along with Venus, the other two planets, off to its right are much dimmer: Saturn 4 degrees away and Mars, 2 degrees to Saturn’s right. You may need binoculars to see them well. Later in the month, Venus teams with Jupiter to make for an eye-catching pair; a crescent moon will join them on April 27. See Jupiter below.

Mars is still no higher than it was during all of January, February and March. It brightens slightly in April from magnitude +1.1 to +0.9, but it still doesn’t look like much in a telescope, appearing as little more than a tiny yellow-orange dot.

Mars is speeding eastward against the background stars. It moves from Capricornus into Aquarius on April 12 and as the Earth gradually catches up to it in our faster orbit around the sun, we will see it enter Pisces in late May, and cross Aries from early July into early August. Mars will spend the rest of the year — its months of glory when nearest the Earth — shining in Taurus high in the late-evening sky.

It will linger between the horns of Taurus from mid-September through mid-December while swelling in apparent size to a maximum of 17.2 arc seconds in early December — its best showing until 2033. Mars will have a very close encounter with Saturn on April 5. See Saturn below. Early on the morning of April 26, the moon will pass Mars. Both objects are visible low in the east-southeast in the early dawn, with Mars positioned about 6.5 degrees to the moon’s upper right.


After spending the past month obscured by the brilliant glare of the sun, Jupiter finally begins emerging back into view during the second week of April. On the morning of April 8, about a half an hour before sunrise, look low near the eastern horizon for the bright light of this big planet, situated about 20 degrees to the lower left of Venus.

Over the next three weeks, watch as Jupiter steadily climbs toward Venus and slowly and dramatically closes the gap between them by roughly one degree per day. On the morning of April 27, it will be likely that radio stations and early morning TV news shows will be getting phone calls inquiring as to what those two ‘very bright stars’ are, hovering above the slender crescent moon.

But ‘in-the-know’ followers will already know that they’re not UFOs but Jupiter and Venus. They are in conjunction on April 30, making for a spectacular sight in the east-southeast sky just before sunrise.


Saturn will engage with Mars on April 5. The Red Planet overtakes Saturn early this morning with the two planets engaged in rather tight conjunction. The two planets are separated by less than 0.4 degrees, with Saturn shining above and at magnitude +0.9, appearing to shine a trifle brighter than Mars (+1.0).

Binoculars will bring out the orange-yellow color of Mars contrasting with the yellow-white glow of Saturn. On the morning of April 25, look for a ringed planet hovering like a bright yellowish-white ‘star’ about 8 degrees to the upper right of the fat, waning crescent moon.

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: [email protected]

Joe Rao is’s skywatching columnist, as well as a veteran meteorologist and eclipse chaser who also serves as an instructor and guest lecturer at New York’s Hayden Planetarium. He writes about astronomy for Natural History magazine, the Farmers’ Almanac and other publications. Joe is an 8-time Emmy-nominated meteorologist who served the Putnam Valley region of New York for over 21 years. You can find him on Twitter and YouTube tracking lunar and solar eclipses, meteor showers and more. To find out Joe’s latest project, visit him on Twitter.

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When will you be able to see the planets at their best in 2022? This guide will tell you.

It will also provide information about when a particular planet might be passing close to another, or a bright star, as well as the constellation that each will occupy during the course of the year. And you’ll learn about the various circumstances — conjunctions, oppositions, and elongations — that are on this upcoming year’s schedule.


As an evening star, Mercury appears in the western sky, setting about an hour after the sun. As a morning star, it appears in the eastern sky, rising about an hour before the sun. There must be a clear, unobstructed horizon on these occasions. Mercury usually appears as a bright “star” with a yellowish or ochre hue. Evenings, from Jan. 1 to 15. Mornings, from Jan. 31 to Mar. 16. Evenings, from April 18 to May 10. Mornings, from June 2 to July 3. Evenings, from Aug. 1 to Sept. 15. Mornings, from Oct. 3 to Oct. 17. Evenings, from Dec. 7 to Dec. 31.

Mercury will be brightest and easiest to spot in the evening sky from April 18 to May 10, and brightest and easiest to spot in the morning sky from Oct. 3 to Oct. 17.


Venus is always brilliant, and shining with a steady, silvery light. Evenings in the western sky at dusk from Dec. 23 to Dec. 31 of this year. Mornings in the eastern sky at dawn from Jan. 17 to Aug. 27, 2022.

Venus will attain its greatest brilliance in the morning sky on Feb. 13. During late January, and on into most of February in the morning sky, Venus will show a striking crescent phase in telescopes and steadily held binoculars. Venus and Jupiter will appear dramatically close to each other on the mornings of April 30 and May 1.

Shining like a “star” with a yellow-orange hue, Mars can vary considerably in brightness. This particular aspect will be vividly demonstrated in 2022, with Mars increasing in brightness and luster some 23-fold from New Year’s Day to early December.

Mars begins the year in the morning sky, shining as an inconspicuous second-magnitude object in the non-zodiacal constellation of Ophiuchus, the Serpent Holder. As the year progresses, Mars will slowly increase in brightness as its distance from Earth gradually decreases. Mars will pass quite close to Saturn on the morning of April 4 and to Jupiter on the morning of May 29. By the end of October, Mars will be shining at an eye-catching magnitude of minus 1.2 between the horns of Taurus, the Bull as it begins its retrograde motion.

Mars will be closest to the Earth on Nov. 30, at a distance of 50.6 million miles (81.4 million kilometers). Mars will arrive at opposition to the sun on Dec. 8, rising as the sun sets, reaching its highest point in the sky at midnight and setting at sunrise. It will then be shining at magnitude minus 1.9, outshining even Sirius, the brightest of all stars.

During the evening hours of Dec. 7, the full moon will pass exceedingly close above Mars, actually hiding it (called an occultation) for parts of North America, north of a line running from approximately San Antonio, to Frankfort, Kentucky to Kittery, Maine, no doubt evoking a question that will be repeated many times that night: “What is that bright yellow-orange star just below the moon?”


Quite brilliant with a silver-white luster, Jupiter starts the year in Aquarius the Water Carrier, crosses over into Pisces the Fishes on April 14, then moves into the non-zodiacal constellation of Cetus, the Whale on June 26. The giant planet backtracks into Pisces on Sept. 2, where it will remain for the balance of the year. Evenings from Jan. 1 to Feb. 13; mornings from March 26 to Sept. 25; evenings again from Sept. 26 to Dec. 31. Brightest in 2022 from Aug. 29 to Oct. 22.

Jupiter is at opposition to the sun on Sept. 26. Jupiter and Venus will rise side by side from above the eastern horizon on the morning of April 30 in an eye-catching sight. Although Jupiter will glow with a lustrous magnitude of minus 2, Venus manages to outshine it by two magnitudes and appears more than six times brighter. Jupiter will appear quite close to Mars on the morning of May 29.


Saturn shines like a yellowish-white “star” of moderate brightness. The famous rings are visible only in a telescope. They were at their maximum tilt toward Earth in October 2017 and are now closing to our line of sight, featuring an inclination of 17.6 degrees on New Year’s Day to 13.7 degrees by year’s end. The rings will turn edge-on to Earth during the spring of 2025.

All through 2022, Saturn will be found within the boundaries of Capricornus the Sea Goat. Evenings from Jan. 1 to Jan. 17; mornings from Feb. 22 to Aug. 13; evenings again from Aug. 14 to Dec. 31. Venus will pass to the upper left of Saturn on the morning of March 29 and Saturn will appear quite close to Mars on the morning of April 4. Brightest in 2022 from July 30 to Sept. 6. Saturn is at opposition to the sun on Aug. 14.


Uranus can be glimpsed as a naked-eye object by people who are blessed with good eyesight and a clear, dark sky, as well as a forehand knowledge of exactly where to look for it. At its brightest it shines at magnitude positive 5.6 and can be readily identified with good binoculars. A small telescope may reveal its tiny, greenish disk.

Uranus spends all of 2022 in the constellation of Aries the Ram. Evenings from Jan. 1 to April 18; mornings from May 22 to Nov. 8; evenings again from Nov. 9 to Dec. 31. Brightest in 2022 from Oct. 18 to Dec. 1. Uranus will arrive at opposition to the sun on Nov. 9.


Neptune starts 2022 in the constellation of Aquarius, the Water Carrier, but crosses over into Pisces, the Fishes on May 2. Neptune then backtracks into Aquarius again on Aug. 19, where it will remain for the rest of the year.

At a peak magnitude of positive 7.8, this bluish-hued world is only visible with good binoculars or a telescope. Evenings from Jan. 1 through Feb. 25; mornings from March 29 through Sept. 15; evenings again from Sept. 16 to Dec. 31. Brightest in 2022 from July 19 to Nov. 13. Opposition to the sun on Sept. 16.

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: [email protected]

Joe Rao is’s skywatching columnist, as well as a veteran meteorologist and eclipse chaser who also serves as an instructor and guest lecturer at New York’s Hayden Planetarium. He writes about astronomy for Natural History magazine, the Farmers’ Almanac and other publications. Joe is an 8-time Emmy-nominated meteorologist who served the Putnam Valley region of New York for over 21 years. You can find him on Twitter and YouTube tracking lunar and solar eclipses, meteor showers and more. To find out Joe’s latest project, visit him on Twitter.

Here is a aB68PC7FWchFK83t6zMXhLe to when certain planets will appear brightest and most visible in the 2020 night sky, including a dazzling conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn on Dec. 21!

When, Where and How to See the Planets in the 2020 Night Sky : Read more

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How to find saturn

Saturn (right) with Jupiter in the night sky over Burnsville, N.C., in December during an event known as the great conjunction.

Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Now might be the time to wipe the dust off that pair of binoculars and extract the family telescope from the back of the closet: Saturn is about to put on its best and brightest show, looking spiffier than at any time during the year – a performance that will be followed a few weeks later by Jupiter.

The ringed planet will be at opposition on Sunday for people in North America. What exactly does that mean? Imagine Earth and Saturn are hands on a clock face, says Phil Plait, an astronomer and longtime science educator. “So very roughly once a year, Saturn, Earth and the sun line up,” he tells NPR.


PHOTOS: Great Conjunction Dazzles Stargazers Around The World

It’s the perfect time of year to go outside an hour or so after sunset and look low in the east-southeast for Saturn.

“The brightest ‘star’ you’ll see not far above the horizon is Jupiter, and Saturn is the fainter yellowish object about two fists seen at arm’s length to its upper right,” Rick Fienberg of the American Astronomical Society writes in an email to NPR.

“You shouldn’t mistake it for anything else. There are some bright spots up in the sky, but they’re going to be in the west mostly,” Plait adds.

With binoculars, you should get a sense for Saturn’s rings

What will you see? With the unaided eye, Saturn will appear somewhat brighter than normal, but “most casual observers won’t notice much of a change at all,” Sarah Burcher, public program manager at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Ariz., tells NPR. However, with binoculars or a small telescope — and good seeing — you’ll have the best chance all year to catch some really interesting detail.

Even with binoculars, you can get a sense of the rings. With a decent, small telescope — a 4-inch reflector, for example — the detail should pop out — including a big gap in the middle of the ring system, known as the Cassini Division (after Italian-born astronomer and mathematician Giovanni Domenico Cassini), says Wayne Schlingman, director of the Arne Slettebak Planetarium at Ohio State University.

If you’re lucky, you might also catch a glimpse of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon.

“Through a small telescope, Titan is actually pretty easy,” Plait says. “If you take a look, you might see a little star right next to Saturn. That might very well be Titan — you can go online and find planetarium software” to confirm it.

Saturn will be at its best for viewing for a few weeks

Many astronomical events are a one-shot deal. Cloudy skies, poor seeing or failure to set a wake-up alarm, and they are missed altogether. Not so for Saturn’s (or Jupiter’s) opposition.

You’ve got a few weeks and all night to see Saturn at its best.


The ‘Best Meteor Shower Of The Year’ Is Happening. Here’s How You Can See It.

“So start looking now, and don’t fret if it’s cloudy on August 1st – just keep looking every evening thereafter,” Fienberg writes.

More advanced amateur astronomers have been capturing especially stunning images of Saturn for weeks now as opposition approaches. Typically, these backyard stargazers “stack” the clearest images they can get to achieve the best results.

Sam Lojacono, a math and science teacher from upstate New York, has been interested in astronomy since his youth. But he has picked up astrophotography just since the pandemic. Using reflector telescopes with apertures of 8 inches and 12 inches, he’s been having increasing success with photographing Saturn as it “grows bigger through the telescope,” he tells NPR.

“Unfortunately for every two days, I have to deal with three days of rain, and the atmosphere is very unstable,” Lojacono laments. “There are some days I’m able to get a clear shot, and other days the image just looks warbled.”

After Saturn’s opposition, get ready for Jupiter

He’s already getting some nice shots of Jupiter, too. The largest planet in the solar system reaches opposition around Aug. 19.

Burcher says, “Jupiter’s opposition will be, in my opinion, a more exciting event.” The planet’s surface “is far more visually dynamic than Saturn, and when it is closer to Earth, these features can become more apparent.”

If you don’t have your own telescope — or if the one you own is on the diminutive side of astronomical instrumentation — it might be worth seeking out a bigger scope, possibly through a local astronomy club.

“Larger telescopes can also help bring out color to help distinguish cloud bands on the surface of Saturn or the striking orange hue of Titan,” Burcher says. “You may also see Saturn’s other moons, such as Enceladus, Rhea or Dione. These will appear to be points of light, like stars, within a couple ring-widths of the planet.”

Saturn will be at its brightest over July, August and September this year. Here is how to find it in the night sky.

How to find saturn

Throughout July, Saturn will shine especially bright making it an ideal time to view the gas giant in the sky through a telescope, or even binoculars.

On July 9, Saturn was in direct opposition, meaning it was the closest distance it gets to Earth in more than a year — it happens roughly every 378 days.

A Saturn viewing guide

In order to get a good view of Saturn this month, you will need a telescope that magnifies to at least 20 power. Thankfully, you still have plenty of time left to do this as Saturn’s opposition isn’t a one-night-only spectacle.

Due to its proximity, the huge planet will be impressively bright in the night sky throughout the months of July, August, and September of this year.

Having been at opposition means that the gas giant is currently at its greatest size in the sky all year. It is shining at a magnitude of +0.1. Compared with the 21 brightest stars, the planet would rank seventh.

How to find saturn

Saturn is the sixth farthest planet from the Sun. Source: WikiImages/Pixabay

To find Saturn, you will need to look for the planet as it rises above the east-southeast horizon as the sun sets in the west-northwest. It will be shining in front of the Sagittarius constellation, to the east of the Teapot asterism.

At roughly 1 a.m. local time, the planet should appear due south, about a third of the way up from the horizon. By dawn, Saturn will be setting in the west-southwest.

Saturn’s spectral rings

Saturn has long inspired stargazers — professional and amateur alike — due to the splendor of its rings. The gas giant’s main rings span 300,000 kilometers in width and can have a thickness of anywhere between 10 meters and 1 kilometer.

Thanks to the Cassini spacecraft mission — which ended when it went hurtling into Saturn’s orbit in 2017 — we have some incredible images of the rings up close.

How to find saturn

As Universe Today reports, even those without telescopes can catch an impressive sight thanks to Saturn being at opposition. With the naked eye, viewers can watch the ‘opposition surge,’ or the Seeliger effect. This is a surge in Saturn’s brightness in the night sky caused by the Sun reflecting off the planet, and its rings, at the opposition angle.

How to make a positive ID

As Space outlines, there are two surefire ways to make a positive identification of Saturn as it floats through the sky at night.

The first way is to find Jupiter. It shines very brightly in the southern night sky, meaning you can’t miss it. Once you have found it, clench your fist and hold it out at arm’s length. By measuring three fists to the left of Jupiter in the night sky, you will see the are of Saturn’s location — the gas giant will be the brightest starlike object in that vicinity.

Meanwhile, on July 15, Saturn will be close to the nearly full moon throughout the night, meaning that the planet will be much easier to track and find.

How to find saturn

Saturn pairs up with the Moon on July 15. Source:

Saturn: Earth’s protector

Last month, it was reported that a machine learning AI bot is being used by researchers to help find exoplanets that are similar in size to Saturn and Jupiter.

Scientists believe that Jupiter and Saturn have protected our planet from asteroids and space debris throughout the history of our solar system. So Saturn could, in fact, be responsible for our very existence on Earth.

The large size of Saturn and Jupiter means that, over billions of years, large chunks of space debris floating into the Milky Way galaxy would be attracted by their strong gravities.

Effectively, Saturn and Jupiter acted like shields for Earth, preventing large asteroids from hurtling towards our planet.

How to find saturn

This means that if we find other planets in the universe that resemble Jupiter and Saturn, they could be neighbors to nearby planets — similar to our own — that could be harboring intelligent life.

So if you have a telescope, now is the time to get on your roof, or to the nearest park at nighttime. There is no better time this year than the next 2-3 months to view Saturn — perhaps while pondering the very existence that the spectral giant makes possible.

The night sky is often filled with countless wonders. This Thursday and Friday night, you can look up to find Saturn and Jupiter. Here’s how!

Photo credit: NASA/Edited by National Air and Space Museum

Outer space is filled with endless things to see, and soon, both Saturn and Jupiter will be visible in the night sky. Considering how vast and limitless space truly is, it’s rather remarkable how much there is to see in our own Solar System. There are asteroids flying all around, countless mysteries to uncover on Mars, and fascinating moons that could hold signs of ancient life.

While certain aspects of the Solar System require expensive equipment, telescopes, and robotics to uncover, some elements can be seen right here from Earth. Just a few days ago, a gorgeous meteor was spotted hurtling through the sky in southern England. If someone lives near the Mineral & Gem Museum in Maine (or doesn’t mind traveling to it), they can see the largest piece of Mars rock on the planet. While scientists and astronomers may have greater access to space-related discoveries and sightings, that’s not to see the rest of us can’t also partake in the fun every now and then.

For anyone itching for a good space viewing experience, this week is one of the best there will be all year. As reported by, the Moon will soon visit Saturn and Jupiter over the next two nights — making the faraway planets incredibly easy to spot. The Moon visits Saturn first on Thursday, September 16, followed by Jupiter the following night on Friday, September 17. While Saturn and Jupiter are visible numerous nights throughout the year, it’s especially easy to find them this week thanks to the position of the Moon.

Tips For Viewing Saturn And Jupiter

Photo credit: SkySafari

Let’s start with viewing tips for Saturn’s appearance on Thursday night. To view the ringed planet, look up at the sky and find the Moon. Make a clenched fist that’s at arm’s length, hold it up to the Moon, move it up about half a fist, and Saturn should be visible there above the Moon. If viewing Saturn with just the naked eye, it may look like nothing more than a bright star with a yellow/white hue. Anyone eager to see the planet and its ring system will want to grab a telescope with a magnification power of at least 30.

Then there’s Friday’s viewing of Jupiter. To catch a glimpse of the gas giant, look up at the sky towards the southeast around an hour after the sun has set. From here, start looking towards the lower part of the east-northeast until you spot the Moon. Towards the upper-left of the Moon will appear what looks like a giant white/silver star. That’s none other than Jupiter! Jupiter appears much more impressive to the naked eye than Saturn, but once again, using a telescope will result in an even more stunning sight. For folks without a telescope, whipping out a pair of binoculars should be enough to see four of Jupiter’s moons.

As with any star or planet-gazing trip, there are a few other things to keep in mind. For the best viewing experience, try to find a safe, isolated area that’s free of pesky light pollution. The further someone is away from a bustling city, the better chances there are of seeing Saturn and Jupiter in all of their glory. It’s also a good idea to head outside about 20 or 30 minutes before the sightseeing begins, as to give the eyes ample time to adjust to the darkness. Stay safe, have fun, and enjoy the show!

How to find saturn

Just as Jupiter did on the evening of July 13 and into the morning of July 14, Saturn will appear at its biggest and brightest in the sky when viewed from Earth on Monday, July 20.

What is the opposition of Saturn?

In astronomy terms, opposition refers to the middle point of the best time of year to view a particular planet. This year, the moment of Saturn’s opposition will be at 3 pm AZ/PDT (7 pm ADT, 6 pm EDT, 5 pm CDT, 4 pm MDT). At opposition, the Earth lies between Saturn and the Sun, and so they appear opposite each other in our sky. On the day of opposition, Saturn rises when the Sun sets. It is also the time when the Earth is closest to Saturn in our orbit, making Saturn appear somewhat bigger and brighter in the sky than usual. This close proximity to Earth is called perigee.

How can I view the opposition of Saturn?

You will need a telescope to see Saturn’s rings, but it will be visible to the naked eye as a bright “star” with a yellowish hue. Saturn will appear in the constellation Sagittarius, the centaur. It will be visible for a majority of the night, and it will reach its highest point in the sky around midnight local time. Here in Flagstaff, Arizona, it will be visible between 6:18 pm on July 20 and 4:42 am AZ/PDT on July 21 (convert to your timezone here). Make sure the area that you view in has a clear view of the sky and all unnecessary lights are turned off.

How to find saturn

E.C. Slipher, “Photographs of Saturn, 1913-1917,” Lowell Observatory Archives.

We also invite you to join Lowell Observatory educators at the Giovale Open Deck Observatory at 9 pm AZ/PT on Monday, July 20, 2020, for a live stream of Saturn at its biggest and brightest. We’ll also show views of much fainter Pluto, which had its own opposition at 7:17pm AZ/PDT on July 15. Between views of Saturn and Pluto, we’ll conduct an Interactive Stargazing session, showcasing some celestial objects and then letting viewers choose which objects to see via YouTube’s chat function.

Learn more about the sixth planet in our solar system and its rings.

Saturn was the most distant of the five planets known to the ancients. In 1610, Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei was the first to gaze at Saturn through a telescope. To his surprise, he saw a pair of objects on either side of the planet. He sketched them as separate spheres and wrote that Saturn appeared to be triple-bodied. In 1659, Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens, using a more powerful telescope than Galileo’s, proposed that Saturn was surrounded by a thin, flat ring.

The Ringed Planet

In 1675, Italian-born astronomer Jean-Dominique Cassini discovered a “division” between what are now called the A and B rings. It is now known that the gravitational influence of Saturn’s moon Mimas is responsible for the Cassini Division, which is 3,000 miles (4,800 kilometers) wide.

In this photograph taken in the Cassini spacecraft’s 12th year orbiting Saturn, the ring shadows appear to obscure almost the entire southern hemisphere, while the planet’s north pole and its six-sided jet stream, known as “the hexagon,” are fully illuminated by the sun.

Like Jupiter, Saturn is made mostly of hydrogen and helium. Its volume is 755 times greater than that of Earth. Winds in the upper atmosphere reach 1,600 feet (500 meters) per second in the equatorial region. (In contrast, the strongest hurricane-force winds on Earth top out at about 360 feet, or 110 meters, per second.) These superfast winds, combined with heat rising from within the planet’s interior, cause the yellow and gold bands visible in the atmosphere.

Saturn’s ring system is the most extensive and complex in the solar system, extending hundreds of thousands of kilometers from the planet. In the early 1980s, NASA’s two Voyager spacecraft revealed that Saturn’s rings are made mostly of water ice. They also found “braided” rings, ringlets, and “spokes,” dark features in the rings that circle the planet at different rates from that of the surrounding ring material. Material in the rings ranges in size from a few micrometers to several tens of meters, and the size and structure of the rings are partly a product of the gravitational influenceof several of Saturn’s moons, known as “shepherd moons.” Two of Saturn’s small moons orbit within gaps in the main rings, and the rings are divided into seven sections.

Many Moons

Saturn has 52 known natural satellites, or moons, and there are probably many more waiting to be discovered. Saturn’s largest satellite, Titan, is a bit bigger than the planet Mercury. (Titan is the second-largest moon in the solar system; only Jupiter’s moon Ganymede is bigger.) Titan is shrouded in a thick, nitrogen-rich atmosphere that might be similar to what Earth’s was like long ago. Further study of this moon promises to reveal much about planetary formation and, perhaps, about the early days of Earth. Saturn also has many smaller “icy” satellites. From Enceladus, which shows evidence of recent (and ongoing) surface changes, to Iapetus, with one hemisphere darker than asphalt and the other as bright as snow, each of Saturn’s satellites is unique.

Though Saturn’s magnetic field is not as huge as Jupiter’s, it is still 578 times as powerful as Earth’s. Saturn, the rings, and many of the satellites lie totally within Saturn’s enormous magnetosphere, the region of space in which the behavior of electrically charged particles is influenced more by Saturn’s magnetic field than by the solar wind. Hubble Space Telescope images show that Saturn’s polar regions have aurorae similar to Earth’s. Aurorae occur when charged particles spiral into a planet’s atmosphere along magnetic field lines.

Missions to Saturn

Voyagers 1 and 2 flew by and photographed Saturn in 1981. The next chapter in our knowledge of Saturn took place between 2005 and 2017, as the Cassini spacecraft continued its exploration of the Saturn system. The Huygens probe descended through Titan’s atmosphere in January 2005, collecting data on the atmosphere and surface. Cassini has orbited Saturn more than 70 times during a 12-year study of the planet and its moons, rings, and magnetosphere. With its fuel running out, it drew closer to saturn than ever in late 2016, showing an up-close view of the planet for the first time. Cassini is sponsored by NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Italian Space Agency.

How to find saturn

(CNN) — See Saturn shine brightly for this once-a-year nighttime spectacle.

On August 1 and 2, Saturn will be at opposition, meaning the Earth will be located between the ringed planet and the sun. This is when the outer planet will be at its most luminous, making for a brilliant night sky view.

Saturn’s opposition is at 2 a.m. ET on August 2, or 11 p.m. PT for those on the West Coast, according to EarthSky.

Once Venus sinks below the horizon after the sun sets, Jupiter will be the brightest object in the sky, EarthSky said. To find Saturn, look just west of Jupiter.

If you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of Saturn’s famous rings, you’ll need to whip out a telescope, according to the Farmer’s Almanac.

“Sunday night into Monday morning much of the Midwest and portions of western California will see mostly clear skies,” CNN meteorologist Haley Brink said. “A swath of cloudy skies will exist across the Northwest into the Rockies, across many southern states and into the Northeast.”

Don’t worry if your town has cloudy weather at the beginning of August because Saturn will remain bright in the sky for the rest of the month, EarthSky said.

Saturn is the sixth planet from the sun, and it would take nine Earths to span the diameter of the gaseous planet, according to NASA — and that’s not including the rings.

Full moons

Typical of a normal year, 2021 has 12 full moons. (There were 13 full moons last year, two of which were in October.)

Here are all of the full moons remaining this year and their names, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac:

August 22 — sturgeon moon

September 20 — harvest moon

October 20 — hunter’s moon

November 19 — beaver moon

December 18 — cold moon

Be sure to check for the other names of these moons as well, attributed to their respective Native American tribes.

Meteor Showers

The Perseid meteor shower, the most popular of the year, will peak between August 11 and 12 in the Northern Hemisphere, when the moon is only 13% full.

Here is the meteor shower schedule for the rest of the year, according to EarthSky’s meteor shower outlook.

• October 8: Draconids

• October 21: Orionids

• November 4 to 5: South Taurids

• November 11 to 12: North Taurids

• November 17: Leonids

• December 13 to 14: Geminids

• December 22: Ursids

Solar and lunar eclipses

This year, there will be one more eclipse of the sun and another eclipse of the moon, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

November 19 will see a partial eclipse of the moon, and skywatchers in North America and Hawaii can view it between 1 a.m. ET and 7:06 a.m. ET.

And the year will end with a total eclipse of the sun on December 4. It won’t be visible in North America, but those in the Falkland Islands, the southern tip of Africa, Antarctica and southeastern Australia will be able to spot it.

Visible planets

Skywatchers will have multiple opportunities to spot the planets in our sky during certain mornings and evenings throughout 2021, according to the Farmer’s Almanac planetary guide.

It’s possible to see most of these with the naked eye, with the exception of distant Neptune, but binoculars or a telescope will provide the best view.

Mercury will look like a bright star in the morning sky from October 18 to November 1. It will shine in the night sky from August 31 to September 21, and November 29 to December 31.

Venus, our closest neighbor in the solar system, will appear in the western sky at dusk in the evenings through December 31. It’s the second-brightest object in our sky, after the moon.

Mars makes its reddish appearance in the morning sky between November 24 and December 31, and it will be visible in the evening sky through August 22.

Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system, is the third-brightest object in our sky. It will be on display in the morning sky through August 19. Look for it in the evenings August 20 to December 31 — but it will be at its brightest from August 8 to September 2.

Saturn’s rings are only visible through a telescope, but the planet itself can still be seen with the naked eye in the mornings through August 1 and in the evenings from August 2 to December 31. It will be at its brightest during the first four days of August.

Binoculars or a telescope will help you spot the greenish glow of Uranus in the mornings through November 3 and in the evenings from November 4 to December 31. It will be at its brightest between August 28 and December 31.

And our most distant neighbor in the solar system, Neptune, will be visible through a telescope in the mornings through September 13 and during the evenings September 14 to December 31. It will be at its brightest between July 19 and November 8.

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