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Catch A Glimpse Of Saturn This Weekend

Apr 26, 2013 04:11 PM EDT
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Stargazers this Saturday and Sunday night will be rewarded with the best view of Saturn to occur all year.

The planet will approach and reach "opposition" this weekend, which is to say that it will be exactly opposite the sun in our sky.

As Space.com reports, opposition has several advantageous for several reasons for those looking to catch a glimpse.

For one, the planet will be visible all night long, weather permitting, starting in the evening. Furthermore, opposition means Saturn will be the brightest it will be all year and, in this year's case, the brightest it's been in a number of years.

In fact, at a magnitude of 0.2, the ringed planet will outshine the regular diva Spica, located in the constellation Virgo and, due to its closeness, will not appear to "twinkle," unlike the latter.

While all the outer planets have rings, Saturn's are by far the brightest and most easily seen. They are composed of small pieces of rock and ice trapped in the planet's orbit ranging from dust particles to objects as large as a tall building. On average, a magnification of about 25 is needed to begin to make out Saturn's rings, though 100 power is best.

In addition to its rings, Saturn has 62 moons, the largest of which is Titan, which is only out-sized by Jupiter's Ganymede. Titan and Ganymede are large enough, in fact, to each boast extensive atmospheres themselves.

In 2005, the unmanned Hyugens probe landed on the massive moon, making it the farthest landing to date. And while Titan can be seen in about any telescope, the moons Rhea, Tethys and Dione require a 90 mm.

Saturn goes around the moon at a rate of 29 Earth years, though the second-largest planet spins on its axis so quickly that each day takes just 10 hours and 14 minutes.

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