Saturn is an excellent target for observing the sky this weekend, thanks to its current location in the solar system.
The ringed gas giant will reach opposition, which means it will be directly opposite the Sun with Earth in the middle. At about the same time, Saturn will reach perihelion, which is its closest point to Earth, according to the American “space” website. in the sky. The combination of these two celestial events means that Saturn will appear at its largest and brightest this weekend. The planet should remain visible until February 2024.
For North American skywatchers, look to the east-southeast just after sunset to find Saturn in the constellation Aquarius. Within a few hours, the ringed planet should be fairly high in the sky. It will reach its highest point around midnight local time on Sunday (27 August), while the exact moment of opposition will occur a few hours later, around 4:20 AM EST (0820 GMT) on Sunday.
Related: The night sky August 2023: What you can see tonight [maps]
At the moment of opposition, Saturn will reach magnitude 0.4, which is the brightest it will be in 2023. (Brighter objects have less magnitude; the full moon, by comparison, is about -12.6 magnitude.) According to NASA.) This means that Saturn should be easily visible to the naked eye as a bright, non-blinking celestial body in the sky.
However, viewing Saturn through binoculars should reveal more detail and bring out the planet’s pale yellow colour. Under the right conditions, some high-powered telescopes can begin to show faint traces of Saturn’s rings or even its largest moon, Titan.
But through a telescope, Saturn’s rings should be clearly visible. The gas giant’s rings are now tilting more towards Earth, and will continue to do so until 2025. According to NASA. That makes this weekend an ideal time to catch a glimpse of one of the best night sky targets available to most backyard skywatchers.
If you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of Saturn at opposition or the next big event in the night sky, our guide to the best binoculars and the best telescopes can help you find the equipment you need.
And if you’re looking to take pictures of these celestial bodies or the night sky in general, check out our guide on how to photograph the moon or how to photograph the planets, as well as our best cameras for astrophotography and the best lenses for astrophotography.
Editor’s note: If you got a great photo of Saturn against it and would like to share it with Space.com readers, send your photo(s), comments, name, and location to [email protected].
“Typical beer advocate. Future teen idol. Unapologetic tv practitioner. Music trailblazer.”