This Tuesday evening, stargazers will be in for a treat as Saturn gets ready to strut its stuff. The gas giant will be shining brightly and planet-watchers will be getting their telescopes ready for the cosmic show.
Saturn will be visible as a brilliant, white-yellow star this coming Tuesday shortly after moonrise. The moon will be a night short of its full phase but as it rises from the east-southeastern direction of the heavens, it will bring along a massive, albeit much more distant companion. Amateur astronomers and stargazers will be able to see the gas giant to the lower left side of the moon as it rises.
While Saturn is already easy to spot due to the fact that it has been shining extra brightly as of late, Tuesday evening will be a good night to take a look at the planet. It has only been a few days since Saturn reached opposition, which happened just last Saturday. Experts say that the cosmic event last Saturday was the best time to look to the heavens for a glimpse at one of the largest planets in the Solar System. However, Tuesday night is still expected to be quite a show.
An opposition happens when two celestial objects such as a planet and the Sun happens to be on the exact opposite side of the sky relative to a specific point such as the Earth. During this period of time, the Earth is positioned in between Saturn and the Sun. This is considered to be a great time for stargazers since celestial bodies in opposition to the Earth stay visible in the night sky all throughout the night. Moreover, when Saturn is in opposition to the Earth, it will also be at the point in its orbit that takes it as close to the Earth as possible. In this case, the distance between the Earth and Saturn is around 830 million miles or 1.3 billion kilometers. Due to the relatively shorter distance, the planet appears larger in size. Moreover, it will also appear brighter. This period of time usually lasts a couple of weeks.
When it rises with the moon this May 13, astronomers expect that the planet will be almost as bright as the star Arcturus. Experts say that in terms of the brightness scale used on celestial objects, Saturn will be shining at a magnitude of zero, which is very bright indeed. However, Saturn will be slightly dimmer compared to Arcturus. Moreover, Saturn will be shining with more of a yellowish-white light whereas Arcturus will be a bit on the orange side.
An animator created a simulated video of Saturn coming into close contact with the Earth. However, the short video disregard the fact that Saturn's powerful gravitaional field would wreak havok on the Earth if it ever came too close. Such an event could cause the destruction of the planet and kick the Moon right out of its orbit.