Stargazing: Saturn returns to the evening sky

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On April 15, Saturn and the sun will be on opposite sides of the sky. Astronomers call this "opposition." During opposition the sun, Earth and Saturn are lined up in a straight line with Earth in the middle. This happens about every 13 months. During opposition, the ring world rises in the east around sunset, is high in the south around midnight and sets around dawn.

This week, the golden-colored ringed planet can be found about 20 degrees above the southeastern horizon and about 5 degrees to the left of Virgo's bright blue-white star Spica at 10 p.m.

During the weeks around opposition, this exquisite jewel will be unusually big and bright because Earth and Saturn are as close as they will get to each other all year, about 810 million miles apart.

The best view of Saturn and its rings through a backyard telescope, however, will be around midnight when the ring world is high above the turbulent air near the horizon.

science - bookclub

First Published April 9, 2012 12:00 AM


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