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See the rings of Saturn during annual astronomical phenomenon

By
Brian Lada, AccuWeather, Accuweather.com
Earth will have a good view of Saturn in August as the planet sits in opposition to the sun. File Photo courtesy of NASA
Earth will have a good view of Saturn in August as the planet sits in opposition to the sun. File Photo courtesy of NASA | License Photo

August is the perfect month to dust off the telescope and point it to the cosmos as one of the biggest planets in the solar system shines brighter than any other time of the year.

Saturn has been visible for late-night stargazers for most of the year, but in August, the planet will be visible all night long, as long as it isn't cloudy.

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On Monday, Saturn will officially reach opposition, meaning that it will appear opposite of the sun from the perspective of the Earth. Saturn is at opposition once every year.

Around the same time of opposition, Saturn will make its closest approach to the Earth, although "close" is a relative term as more than 800 million miles will still separate the two planets. At this distance, it takes light more than one hour to travel from one planet to the other.

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Saturn will be easy to pick out in the sky as it rises in the southeast around sunset, tracks across the southern sky throughout the night, and then eventually sets in the southwest around sunrise.

Despite opposition taking place on Monday, skywatchers will have great views of Saturn all month long.

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This means that people can make plans to look for the planet at a time that is easiest for them and when AccuWeather meteorologists are predicting cloud-free conditions.

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Since the opposition is around the time when the planet is closest to the Earth, it presents a golden opportunity to observe Saturn through the eyepiece of a telescope.

Saturn is bright enough to be seen with the naked eye, making it an easy target to find with a telescope, especially for those who are using a telescope for the first time.

To see Saturn's famous rings, EarthSky says that a telescope that can magnify objects at least 25 times is needed, but recommends using a more powerful telescope that can magnify objects at least 50 times to see more details.

Saturn as seen through a telescope from Texas on Nov. 26, 2006. (Jeff Barton and Josh Walawender)
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Saturn will not be the only planet that will glow in the August sky.

Jupiter will rise shortly after Saturn every evening, following it as glides across the sky throughout the night.

Jupiter is the brighter of the two planets, so finding it may be easier. People that are having difficulties spotting Saturn can look for the brighter Jupiter first and then look off to the right to spot Saturn.

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This is reminiscent of how the duo appeared in the summer sky in 2020, although last year Saturn was visible to the left of Jupiter.

Later in the month, Jupiter will reach opposition, making it another planet to zoom in on with the magnifying power of a telescope.

Saturn and Jupiter will remain prominent features in the night sky through much of the rest of 2021, although the pair will gradually become dimmer and dimmer throughout autumn and heading into winter.

Out-of-this-world images from space

This composite image made from six frames shows the International Space Station, with a crew of seven aboard, in silhouette as it transits the sun at roughly 5 miles per second on April 23, 2021, as seen from Nottingham, Md. Aboard are: NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, Mark Vande Hei; Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy, Pyotr Dubrov; and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi. Joining the crew aboard station the next day were Crew-2 mission crew members: Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur of NASA, JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet. Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA | License Photo

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