Courtesy of EarthSky
A Clear Voice for Science
The planet Saturn adorns the nighttime from late evening till dawn tonight. This golden world rises in the east around 11:00 p.m. Climbing upward through the night, Saturn soars to its highest point in the southern sky around 5:00 a.m. Thursday morning.
As a general rule, Saturn appears to travel eastward in front of the background stars. But starting on January 14, 2010, Saturn will be going in retrograde – westward – in front of the constellation Virgo. Some 4.5 months from now – on May 31, 2010 – Saturn’s retrograde will end. Then Saturn will go eastward once again.
Actually, Saturn always travels eastward. But the Earth in its smaller, faster orbit around the sun is now in the process of bypassing Saturn, the 6th planet outward from the sun. Saturn appears to be going in retrograde, because our planet Earth – like a racecar – is zooming by Saturn from the inside track. As seen from Earth, Saturn will look like it’s moving westward through the stars – even though it’s really not.
If you want, you can watch Saturn’s upcoming retrograde for yourself. Presently, Saturn shines immediately north of Virgo’s dim but visible star Zaniah. At the end of Saturn’s retrograde, you’ll see Saturn near the Virgo star Zavijava.
Written by Bruce McClure