Saturn’s at Opposition Tonight!

Hey, Sky Fans!

{Earlier today}

Friend: What’s this “Saturn opposition stuff?”

Me: Let’s see if I can do this in one breath.

Opposition is what we call what happens when a thing is directly opposite another thing as seen by someone in the middle. In astronomy, it’s usually something’s opposite the Sun as seen by us here on Earth. What this means is the line that goes through space from the Sun to the other thing goes straight through us. The is the same as when there’s a full Moon, right? The Sun-Us-Moon line is perfectly straight, and what we see is a fully lit Moon.

People would look at you funny, but you could say “The Moon’s at opposition tonight.” Well, not *tonight* tonight, but on-August-30-tonight. Ferris and Cameron were at opposition as seen by Sloan when they were in the art museum that day (again, funny looks); see Fig. 1, below.

Fig. 1: Ferris and Cameron at opposition as seen by Sloan

Tonight, August 2, 2021 Saturn will be at opposition! Really what’s happening is we’re speeding past Saturn on the inner track of our orbit around the Sun. It’s 10 times farther from the Sun than we are and takes 24 times longer to go around once. So, every time we zip by, w00t, <sing> the opposition (what a show!) </sing>

As this happens, we’re near our closest to each other. You can actually picture this yourself by just drawing two concentric circles and pretending a couple of coins are Earth and Saturn.

Things that are closer tend to be bigger, and bigger things look brighter, as do things that are fully lighted. So together, this means it’s a particularly good time to see Saturn.

It’s the bright yellow thing southern sky once night falls. But… it’s not *SUPER* bright, like Jupiter is. It’s a mello yello color, and the light that you’re seeing has traveled almost two billion miles to get to your eye. So be patient. If you have a telescope, or even a good pair of binoculars, you can see what us in the biz call some “ringitude,” and I hope you’ll give it a try. Tonight’s the best night, but it’ll be great for at least the rest of the month.

Fig 3. Look for Saturn in Capricornus, not far from Jupiter

Yeah, that wasn’t one breath. Look Up, will you?

Thanks for stopping by, and clear skies, everyone!

14 Comments

    1. Probably best after about 10:00 or 10:30, which’ll give it time to get high enough to clear the roofs and trees down the street. Depending on where you are in the Eastern time zone, darkness might come earlier (toward the east) or later (toward the west).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Clouds cleared up, but struggling with telescope. Cloudy tonight, but I think I’ll try a different eyepiece. You were dead on with your time table. 10:45/11p it camped out of reach of houses and tree lines.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ahh.. that’s great. I’m glad to hear it. I hear you about the telescope struggles. I packed mine away whenever ago, and went back to binoculars. I’m glad you were able to see it.

        Haven’t seen you around here before, I don’t think. I’m glad you stopped by.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Of course, the forecast calls for clouds the next two nights 😡Gonna have to wait until Thursday to try again. Been on WordPress about a year. Just started cruising other blogs recently. You had a post about moon phases that caught my eye. First stop, Saturns rings. After that Jupiters spot 😁

        Like

    1. I’m really glad. That’s great to hear. I headed out to see what I could see, but my telescope is in pieces and packed away, so it was my big binoculars. I could definitely see rings, but I doubt I could see Titan. Maybe I’ll try again tonight.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I wasn’t sure if it was Titan or not at first, but my friend checked on her phone and confirmed that the very tiny speck we were seeing was right were Titan was supposed to be. That was a first for me.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. If the skies clear up tonight (it was cloudy last night), I’m going to try again. Maybe I saw it, too, but didn’t realize it. I was surprised at how good a job my binoculars did.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Tonight is probably a lost cause for me, but I’m hoping to get out for another look Thursday or Friday. Titan looks like it could just be a random background star, so I think there is a really good chance you did see it without knowing it.

        Like

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