Saturn, that big beautiful jewel box floating up on our celestial ceiling, is about to put on quite a show.
The ringed planet will be shining brighter Tuesday night than at any other night this year. And it’s all because Saturn will be at what astronomers call opposition, says AccuWeather. Not in a bad way, like the opposition research political candidates do to dig up dirt on their opponent. No dirt here — just a very, very bright planet shimmering above our heads and right in front of our faces.
Weather-permitting, of course.
Here are a few things to know about Tuesday night’s big show:
- Saturn is usually best viewed through the eyepiece of a telescope, but those of us who are merely equipped with a pair of naked eyes will have a great view of the planet Tuesday evening.
- Saturn will be “at opposition,” which means it’s located at the point in its orbit when it comes closest to the Earth.
- Opposition is what occurs when Earth is precisely in line between the sun and another planet.
- This time, it’s Saturn’s turn — and that line measures nearly 900 million miles in length.
- The best time to check it out is about midnight local time, according to Accuweather.
- With a telescope, viewers will probably get a nice peek at Saturn’s famous rings, which are made of rock, dust and particles of ice.
- In this two-for-one deal, viewers also will be able to make out Titan, Saturn’s largest moon.
- Much of California should be clear, though parts of the Bay Area are expected to be cloudy (sorry!).
- Much of the interior West, the southern Plains and the Northeast should enjoy cloud-free skies.
- The Midwest and the Southeast could get clouds and rain.
- Luckily, those who miss the show Tuesday night can still catch Saturn through the rest of July, and it should remain very bright all month.
- You can find Saturn sitting just above the horizon all night long, rising in the southeast at sunset and gradually gliding across the sky before finally setting in the southwest just before sunrise.
Enjoy the show!