2021: The Giants at Opposition!

(L-to-R) Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune will reach opposition at some point this summer and fall. The planets will be far apart in the sky but are shown together in this composite image scaled to their relative sizes on opposition date. Your actual view in the telescope will differ. Jupiter & Saturn © Chuck Pavlick (Celestron 9¼ Edge HD with 2.5x Powermate and ZWO ASI 224MC camera), and Uranus & Neptune © Dane Hankin (Celestron NexStar 6SE with 2.5x Powermate and ZWO ASI 224MC camera).
Opposition: Earth and outer planet line up on the same side with Sun (bottom of diagram). Conjunction: Earth and outer planet line up on opposite sides of the sun (top of diagram). Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech.

An “opposition” happens on the day that Earth and an outer planet line up on the same side of the Sun. For Earth observers, a planet in opposition will rise when the Sun sets and will be in the sky all night. Around the time of opposition, the planet is brightest, practically fully illuminated, and displays the largest angular diameter for the year. Right before, during, and after opposition are prime-time for viewing and imaging a planet!
 
Amateur and large observatory scopes can do best when imaging planets at opposition. It was just announced this summer that amateur astronomer Kai Ly discovered an unknown moon of Jupiter while examining opposition images taken with the 3.6-meter Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope at Mauna Kea Observatory in Hawaii. This news comes just in time to take some confirmation images as Jupiter opposition season is upon us now!
 

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Images: The Great Conjunction!

Jupiter and Saturn in conjunction on 12/20/2020. by Instagram user Rodrigo Carvajal. All rights reserved. Used by permission. The planets were 7.5-minutes-of-arc apart. Imaging was done with 11-inch, f/5 Newtonian Reflector using Tele Vue Paracorr Type-2 Coma Corrector onto a QHY5III 178C Camera. Two 60-second videos combined to correctly expose both planets. From Santiago, Chile. From there, the planets were 23.5-deg above the horizon at sunset.

The Jupiter and Saturn “Great Conjunction” was well-publicized and well-imaged. Even though the closest approach between the planets was Monday, they’re still in the vicinity and worth a look tonight! This gallery contains some of the best images of the event we found on-line, acquired with Tele Vue products.

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Have You Been Watching Jupiter & Saturn?

A simulated eyepiece view of the Jupiter and Saturn conjunction on 21 December 2020 with stars removed. The field of view is about ¼ degrees. The four Galilean moons will be easy to spot. Saturn’s moons are much dimmer and will blend in with the field stars. Your view may be rotated and inverted depending on the equipment used and location on the Earth.
Great Conjunction: Countdown to December 21st!
On December 16th, Jupiter and Saturn will be a full-Moon’s width apart at dusk as they sink into the south-western horizon. Watch this pair each evening as they draw ever-closer together until they pass within 1/10 of a degree on December 21st. This is the great Jupiter / Saturn Conjunction of 2020! This is the closest they’ve been together since 1623 and most sources say that conjunction was not observed due to the planet’s vicinity to the Sun. The last time the pair was definitely visible this close together was in 1226 in the morning sky. This is a rare “must-see” event indeed!

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Saturn at Opposition: June 27th

Saturn with 2.5x Powermate™™
Moons Enceladus & Tethys visible on original.
©Ed Grafton

Saturn is in opposition tonight: it  glides above the horizon around sunset and will be over 18-arc-seconds in diameter for a few weeks. At about magnitude 0.0, it will pair well with the full moon that accompanies it across the sky this evening. 

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Saturn Opposition: June 15, 2017

Saturn with 2.5x Powermate™
Moons Enceladus & Tethys visible on original.
©Ed Grafton

Saturn will be visible all night in the sky on the 15th as it rises when the sun sets (hence it is opposite the sun). Now is a good time to revisit an essay I wrote a while back about this visually appealing planet.

It’s Saturnday

I’ve found that first-time views of Saturn through a telescope typically elicit gasps of delight followed by inquisitive questioning.

Saturn’s startling beauty can open the door to wonders and knowledge about the universe that can inspire a love and appreciation of all the arts, sciences, and history.

Understanding something of the vastness and nature of the universe and our unique position as the only species possessing such knowledge suggests we commit to fostering the best in us: love, kindness, respect for learning and for all the amazing life-forms we’re so fortunate to share on this wonderful planet.

So let’s use Saturn as a means to enrich our future and help preserve our earthly paradise.

Spread the word to change Saturday to Saturnday through all media and contacts, in every social venue, to start dialogues that can open the minds and hearts of our earthling friends.  Caring for our precious planet and it’s lucky inhabitants, will make future generations proud of our time here.

Saturnday can change the world with your help !

– Al (10715) Nagler

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