April 25, 2013
Saturn To Put On A Wonderful Show This Weekend
[ Watch the Video: ScienceCasts: Saturn Close Up ]
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com — Your Universe OnlineThis weekend, stargazers should dust-off their telescopes and catch a glimpse of Saturn at its best and brightest.
On Sunday, April 28th, Saturn will be making its closest approach to Earth, appearing bigger and brighter than at any other time in 2013. Astronomers refer to this event as "an opposition," because Saturn will be opposite the sun in the skies of Earth.
The planet will be starting to emerge as the sun falls down, and it will be soaring overhead at midnight.
"Observers who see Saturn for the first time through the eyepiece of a telescope often gasp. The view is Hubble-esque, but the experience is much more personal," said Dr. Tony Phillips of NASA. "You´re seeing Saturn with your own eyes, a celestial wonder right out of the pages of an Astronomy magazine. The sight of that cloudy sphere suspended in the middle of crisp, thin icy rings is almost unreal."
Phillips said observers should start looking for Saturn tonight or tomorrow night, when the full Moon passes Saturn only a few degrees away. When this takes place, the Moon will help guide observers straight to the ringed planet.
"Look again on April 28th. That's when Saturn will be closest to Earth--about 1.3 billion km away. If clouds intervene, don´t worry; there are many more opportunities to look. Saturn will remain a golden jewel in the midnight sky for weeks to come," Dr. Philips said.
For those who want to get a good look at the ringed planet but do not have a telescope or pair of binoculars, Slooh Space Camera will be providing an opportunity for you to view the celestial event online. Slooh said it will begin coverage of Sunday's event at 9:30 p.m. eastern, when it will broadcast feeds from their world class observatory site in the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa.
”Saturn is widely regarded as the most beautiful planet in the known universe," said Bob Berman, author of numerous astronomy books and contributing editor and monthly columnist for Astronomy Magazine. He added "this is the day that it is largest and hence potentially clearest not just for all of 2013, but for the past half dozen years, thanks to the greatly improved viewing tilt of its famous rings. The famous inkyblack gap separating its broad white 'B' ring from its narrower 'A' ring, called the Cassini Division, should be striking."
Slooh broadcasted the partial lunar eclipse today, which was the first lunar eclipse of the year. This eclipse was only visible in its entirety from Eastern Europe, Africa, central Asia and western Australia.