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Saturn Will Be Visible To The Naked Eye Tonight As It Reaches Closest Point To Earth

by : Hannah Smith on : 02 Aug 2021 15:22
Saturn Will Be Visible To The Naked Eye Tonight As It Reaches Closest Point To EarthJordi Chapman/Unsplash/PA

Amateur stargazers are in luck with Saturn set to become visible to the naked eye as it passes at its closest distance from Earth.

Despite being the second-largest planet in our solar system, most of the time Saturn is near impossible to pick out without a decent telescope, but astronomers say tonight most people in the UK will have the chance to spot it in the night sky.

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Overnight on August 2, Saturn will become visible as the sun sets over the UK, reaching its highest and brightest point in the Southern sky at around 1.00am.

Saturn viewed by the Hubble telescope (NASA)NASA

Speaking to Mail Online, Royal Astronomical Society member Dr. Robert Massey explained exactly what to keep an eye out for:

You’re looking for a fairly bright object in the southeast that then rises in the sky as the Earth turns and will be due south by about 1am.

It will look like a yellowish star but the difference between planets and stars is that Saturn will emit a steady light rather than twinkling. It is also brighter than the vast majority of stars in the sky so will stick out for that reason.

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While cloudy skies might threaten to ruin tonight’s view, Dr. Massey revealed there’s plenty of time left to catch a glimpse of the ringed planet, which is set to remain visible for the next few weeks.

But while the planet will remain in our skies for some time, tonight is the night for keen stargazers to pencil into their diaries, as it marks the official moment of Saturn’s ‘opposition.’ Essentially, this means that Earth is directly in line with the Sun and Saturn.

Stargazers can see Saturn in the night sky tonight (PA Images)PA Images

It’s actually a relatively common celestial event, happening every year with every planet in our solar system. And just like buses, two planets are set to be at opposition at once later this month, when Jupiter joins Saturn in being visible to the naked eye in the night sky on August 19.

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That means if you’re lucky enough to have access to a telescope, later this month you’ll have a rare chance to catch a glimpse of Saturn’s rings and Jupiter’s giant spot on the very same night.

Even at its closest point, Saturn is still 1.2 billion km away from Earth, and a massive nine times further away from the Sun than we are, so the chance to get a view of the solar system’s second biggest planet is an opportunity you don’t want to miss.

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Hannah Smith

Hannah Smith is a London-based journalist at UNILAD. After studying History at UCL she worked for print publications on both sides of the pond, including spells at Harper's Magazine and The Times, before graduating with an MA in Newspaper Journalism from City, University of London.

Topics: News, Saturn, Solar System, Space, Stargazing

Credits

Mail Online
  1. Mail Online

    Look up tonight! Saturn will reach its closest point to Earth this evening, making the ringed planet visible in the night sky