1.3 billion kilometers is a great distance, but tonight consider it relatively close. That’s how
far away close Saturn will be to the Earth tonight. What does that mean for you? It means that with a telescope — even a cheap one — you can get a beautiful view of another planet that’s more than 800 million miles away. Oh, you don’t have a telescope? Go buy a telescope. There’s still time.
Spacecraft that are out in the solar system are constantly sending back stunning images of the planets, and we love to look at them, but there’s something to be said about observing something firsthand.The more powerful the telescope you use, the better view you’ll have, but even with a small refracting telescope, the rings should be easily visible and distinct from the planet itself.
With the naked eye, Saturn will appear approximately twice as bright as a first magnitude star tonight. That’s because it’s in what’s called “an opposition” relative to Earth, meaning that it is on the opposite side of the sky from the Sun. That makes it easy to find with just your eye, but the real show tonight will be through the lens of a telescope.
NASA put out this ScienceCast video earlier in the week about the details of Saturn’s close up:
Tonight look out towards the constellation Virgo and find the bright light near the star Spica. You’ll have a pretty good view of Saturn for the next few weeks, but tonight it will be the closest to Earth it’s going to get in 2013. If you’re not sure where Virgo is, I’d recommend using Google Sky, or at least I would normally. Right now it seems the search function of the web version of sky isn’t working.
Sounds like a pretty good excuse to drop some coin on a telescope. I’ve been pricing them out while writing this and there’s a pretty vast range of prices.. If you get any good Saturn photos tonight, we’d love to see them in our firstname.lastname@example.org inbox.
- A massive storm on Saturn circled the planet and touched its own tail
- The Cassini spacecraft captured this beautiful image of two of Saturn’s moons
- It also got the beautiful image of Saturn I used as the cover for this article