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9:45 AM | Saturn is worth a look now as its rings surge in brightness


Weather forecasting and analysis, space and historic events, climate information

9:45 AM | Saturn is worth a look now as its rings surge in brightness

Paul Dorian


[This is an animation of two Saturn images about 10 minutes apart using a 16-inch telescope. It shows gaps in Saturn's rings, clouds in the planet's atmosphere, and a famous hex-shaped storm around Saturn's north pole. Courtesy ""]


If you have a backyard telescope then the best time to see the planet Saturn in 2015 is here! Saturn’s rings will surge in brightness tonight as the planet will be at “opposition” – that is, opposite the sun. The Earth passes in between Saturn and the sun later tonight and the ringed planet will be at its closest to the Earth and brightest in our sky. Saturn will rise in the eastern sky at sunset (opposite the setting sun) and then move through the southern sky reaching its highest point at midnight in the region of the constellation Scorpius (see sky map). Saturn should shine a touch brighter than Antares, the brightest star in the constellation Scorpius. Saturn will then set in the western sky at sunrise.


[An "opposition" takes place when Earth goes between Saturn and the sun]

Whenever Saturn is at “opposition”, its rings surge in brightness. Saturn’s rings are made of frozen chunks of ice ranging in size from dust to houses. Sunlight backscattered from these ice particles cause the ring system to shine more than usual around “opposition”. This is not a one-time event. Saturn’s rings should be in good view through June 2015, and it will remain a fixture in the evening sky until the fall. Skies should clear tonight following the passage of a cold frontal system – but it will get quite cold. Skies have a good chance of being clear tomorrow night as well.