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There are not too many planets visible this summer. Venus will be visible very low in the Western sky in the evening in early summer. Jupiter will be visible as the Sun is setting, also over towards the West. But really the only planet visible when night has fallen this summer is Saturn, which is currently in the constellation Libra.


Where to find Saturn this summer. It is to the South of Arcturus, and to the East of Spica.

Where to find Saturn this summer (2013). It is in the constellation Libra; to the South of Arcturus, and to the East of Spica.


The image above shows where Saturn is to be found at about 21:45. The easiest way to find it is to find the bright star Arcturus (the second brightest star in the summer sky after Vega), and to the South of it is Saturn. You can also check that Spica, the brightest star in the constellation Virgo, is to the West of it.

Throughout the summer, Saturn will have a magnitude of about +1.1, which makes it roughly the same brightness as Spica and about 2.5 times fainter than Arcturus. Even with the naked eye you should be able to see the colour difference between Spica and Saturn. Whereas Spica is a bluish-white, Saturn is a distinctly brown colour.

In mid-July, Saturn will be rising at about 14:45, transiting at about 19:50 and setting at about 01:00. So it will be at its highest in the night-time sky a little before sunset in northern latitudes.

Although Saturn is easily visible to the naked eye, it is well worth looking at through a small telescope, as when one does so the famous rings become visible. If the atmosphere is particularly stable, you should be able to make out the Cassini division in the rings. You may also be able to spot Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, which is indicated in the photograph below.


Saturn as seen through a small telescope, with its largest moon Titan visible to the right.

Saturn as seen through a small telescope, with its largest moon Titan visible to the right.


Titan is a fascinating moon, and one which has become quite well studied by the spacecraft Cassini and the space probe Huygens, which plunged through its atmosphere in January 2005 and landed on its surface. It is thought to be one of the most likely places beyond the Earth in our Solar System to harbour life. I will do a blog about Titan and what we so far know about it in the near future.

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