Courtesy of EarthSky
A Clear Voice for Science
If the skies are clear, you cannot miss the planet Saturn this evening. The waning gibbous moon and Saturn rise above your eastern horizon by around 8:00 p.m. tonight. For the precise rising times for the moon and Saturn into your sky, check out the links on our almanac page. These rising times presume a level horizon.
Saturn is that star-like object by tonight’s moon. Saturn is no star, however. Stars put forth their own light, whereas planets – like Saturn – shine by reflecting sunlight.
Saturn, the 6th planet outward from the sun, is the most distant world that you can easily see with the unaided eye. This gas giant world looms at over 3500 times the moon’s distance away. The moon, our nearest celestial neighbor, resides some 225,000 miles distant tonight.
The Earth in its smaller, swifter orbit around the sun is to pass between the sun and Saturn on March 21, 2010. Saturn is said to be at opposition at this time, because that is when this planet stands opposite the sun in Earth’s sky. At opposition, Earth comes closest to Saturn for the year, and Saturn, in turn, beams most brightly in our sky.
Written by Bruce McClure