Hey, Sky Fans!
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.
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.
Yeah, that wasn’t one breath. Look Up, will you?
Thanks for stopping by, and clear skies, everyone!