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Saturn's Rings Won't Look Like This For 15 Years: Here's How To See Them

15 June 2017, 7:17 am EDT By Eric Brackett Tech Times
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Tonight, Saturn be will at its most bright and visible point in the night's sky, but that's not the only reason to break out the telescopes. Saturn's rings will be striking a pose that won't be seen again for 15 years.  ( Getty Images )

Saturn will be at its brightest, but its rings won't be seen like this for another 15 years.

How To See Saturn At Opposition

On Wednesday night, June 14 — or Thursday, June 15, in the eastern hemisphere — Saturn will be at opposition, meaning it will be positioned opposite the sun. Rising at sunrise, Saturn will be visible until daybreak, rising in the east and setting in the west at dawn. At its closest point to Earth, Saturn will be 840 million miles away. This means that Saturn will be relatively easy to see even without a telescope, though such a device would make it much easier to see the planet's rings.

Titan And Enceladus

In addition to making it easier to see Saturn's rings, a telescope will also make it possible to catch a glimpse of Saturn's two largest moons. Titan and Enceladus will be visible on either side of the planet. Titan, which is larger than some planets, possesses oceans and lakes that some researchers believe could contain the basic building blocks of life. Enceladus is likewise believed to hold an ocean under its frozen surface, which could also serve as a possible location for basic alien life.

The hypothetical life forms in question would doubtlessly be very basic — possibly bacteria and the like — but it would still provide proof that life is capable of thriving in places other than Earth.

Saturn's Moons

Seeing Saturn at opposition is a site well worth braving the summer heat for, but the real treat will be the planet's iconic rings, which will be tilted at a 26-degree angle toward the Earth. This affords a unique opportunity to catch a glimpse of the Cassini Division, which is the dividing point between the planet's brightest rings. The next time this will happen will be in summer of 2032, so tonight is going to be the best time to see it.

At first glance, Saturn's mile-thick rings appear to be solid, but they are actually made up of millions upon millions of chunks of ice, which can be as large as boulders to the size of sand on the seashore. The Voyager space probes revealed that the rings themselves are actually composed of thousands of smaller rings, which are held in place by the gravity of the tiny moons that orbit the planet.

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Eric Brackett Tech Times editor Eric Brackett is a tech junkie and a gamer, covering science and technology. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter for updates and his random thoughts on the latest trends in gaming, tech, and comic books.

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