Sunday 19 July 2020

Saturn at opposition.

The planet Saturn will be at opposition (directly opposite the Sun) at about 10.14 pm GMT on Monday 20 July 2020. This means that it will both be at its closest to the Earth this year, about 8.99 AU (8.99 times the average distance between the Earth and the Sun, or about 1 344 885 000 km), and completely illuminated by the Sun. While it is not obvious to the naked eye observer, the planets have phases just like those of the Moon; being further from the Sun than the Earth, Saturn is 'full' when directly opposite the Sun. 

The relative positions of Earth and Saturn on 20 July 2020. Not to scale. EarthSky.

While the relative positions of the planets have no direct influence on life on Earth, the opposition of Saturn does present the best opportunity for observations of the planet by Earth-based observers. On Monday 20 July 2020 Saturn will appear as a bright object in the constellation of  Sagittarius, rising at about 8.55 pm local time in the southeast in the Northern Hemisphere and the northeast in the Southern Hemisphere. Seen through a moderate sized telescope both the planet and its rings should be visible, with the rings tilted at an angle of 21°. 

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