Get out the telescopes, Saturn returns to visibility in the night sky
Saturn is the sixth planet from the sun and one of the most memorable, with its amazing ring system.
Saturn is named after the Roman god of agriculture and was known in the Greek world as Cronus, god of the harvest.
Saturn was the farthest planet known in the ancient world until Uranus was discovered In 1781.
With well over 62 known moons, Saturn is a most amazing world and one that you can observe right from your own backyard with a telescope.
The best views of Saturn will occur in just a few days, as the ringed planet will come to opposition on the night of July 9.
This means that Saturn will rise at sunset and remain in our skies all night.
Look to the southeast sky, just after sunset, as Saturn rises and shows off its amazing ring system.
Saturn will lie deep in the summer Milky Way, in the constellation of Sagittarius and will create an amazing photo opportunity for those in clear and dark skies.
With a telescope, you will be able to create a most amazing scene.
With a moderate powered telescope – at least a magnification of 100 times the human eye – you can glimpse this unique ring system.
The rings were not discovered by Galileo; history tells us that that honor may have been first claimed by astronomer Christian Huygens.
Huygens also discovered one of the largest satellites in the solar system, Titan. Titan is the largest satellite of Saturn and is larger than the planet Mercury. Titan has an atmosphere of its own.
Many spacecraft have made the journey to Saturn and now a new spacecraft has been announced, which will be devoted to exploration of Titan.
Learn more about this mission here.
The ring system on Saturn is made up small to large ice particles and is thought to be around 66 feet thick.
Saturn is the only planet in the solar system that is less dense than water, with a mass of 95 times that of Earth.
Jupiter and Saturn contain 92% of the entire mass of the solar system!
As a gas giant, Saturn is mostly made up of hydrogen and helium and has an incredible high rotation speed of only 10 hours 33 minutes and 38 seconds, with winds that are higher than those on the cloud tops of Jupiter.
Here is one of the most amazing images of Saturn, taken by the Cassini spacecraft:
The main moons of Saturn:
For those of you that have a telescope and want to follow the exact location of the main moons of Saturn, you will like this helpful tool.
On a final note, many are searching the solar system for places that may harbor life. Saturn offers up the possibility, that the major moon Enceladus may be just the place to look.
Deep below the surface of Enceladus there may be a hidden ocean of water ice and there are distinct ice volcanoes on the surface of the planet. This may be a good place to look.
Here is what Enceladus looks like:
Enjoy Saturn as he rules our July night skies!
To print your own monthly star chart, click here.
To view satellites/dates/times of passage, click here.
Listen to the Dr. Sky Show on KTAR News 92.3 FM every Saturday morning at 3 a.m.