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Saturn to return to Arizona skies in June

(NASA photo)

Saturn, the ringed planet, is now near its best for all of 2018.

The most distant planet known to the ancients, Saturn, is now moving to its annual opposition on June 27

This large, gas, ringed giant is easy to view with the naked eye, by looking low in the southeast sky at sunset. Saturn occupies a position in the zodiac constellation of Sagittarius, deep in the heart of the Milky Way.

Take advantage of the next few nights, as moonlight will not interfere with your observations of Saturn and the rich star clouds of the central bulge of our galaxy. This is a most amazing region of the sky to view and in a pair of binoculars, get set for a sight to remember.

Saturn lies along the top of the constellation of Sagittarius and is easy to see with the naked eye.

Beyond the naked eye, observers need only to look at Saturn in a small telescope, as the amazing ring system will come into view.

Saturn lies some 840,000,000 miles from Earth. Light takes 75 minutes to get from the Earth to Saturn.

At the time of opposition, Saturn will be close to 18 seconds of arc in diameter — small, but still decent, with the amazing ring system in view.

With the ring in consideration, the size of Saturn is around 42 seconds of arc and the rings are tipped some 26 degrees to our line of sight.

The rings of Saturn were first observed by Galileo in 1610, but he was not able to really draw them with the clarity that Christiaan Huygens did in 1655, when he first saw them with enough detail to call them a disk, or ring.

If you have never viewed the rings of Saturn, you are in for a most amazing sight!

There is a dark division in the ring, known as the Cassini Division, a large void in the ring system which was created by the motions of the particles in the entire system. Many of the particles in the ring system are as small as pebbles, up to the size of a city bus.

Saturn has a wealth of satellites, nearly 62 and at least nine which are awaiting official names. The largest of these satellites is Titan, a massive planet in its own right, which is larger than both Mercury and Pluto.

Saturn is made up of a combination of hydrogen, helium and methane and is so amazing if were able to be placed in a large ocean, the ball of the planet would be able to float on water.

The ball of Saturn is some 74,000 miles in diameter and has a rotation period of more than 10 hours.

A day on Saturn is nearly 10,799 Earth days long.

The Cassini spacecraft has given us a wealth of details about the sixth largest planet in the solar system.

As you look to the southeast sky on these June evenings, know that Saturn was the farthest planet known to the ancients. It was not until William Herschel and the discovery of Uranus, back on March 13, 1781, to expand our known solar system

Don’t miss Saturn in a small telescope, it is that amazing!

To print your very own June 2018 star chart, click here. To view satellites/dates/times of passage, click here.

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