With Earth moving between Saturn and the Sun, the planet will be closest

On May 10, with the faint traces of dusk still lingering in the west as the Sun descends, Saturn will rise in its full glory, low in the east. It will slowly become prominent, appearing all night long in the constellation Libra, and presenting an awesome sight to sky-watchers.

With Earth moving between Saturn and the Sun, the planet will be closest to us on this day, said P. Iyanperumal, executive director of the Periyar Science and Technology Centre here.  The ringed visitor will be at a distance of just 129.9 crore km from the Earth. As we will pass Saturn from an inside path around the Sun, it will look as though the planet is moving backwards.

Therefore, now is also the most advantageous time to observe the planet as it will be diametrically opposite the Sun, in relation to the Earth and will be fully illuminated by it.  The rings around the planet will also be tilted at a favourable angle and can be viewed well by astronomers. Some of its features such as the A and B ring, Cassini’s Division (separates the thin A ring from the wide B ring) and the moons — Titan, Tethys, Rhea and Dione — will be clearly visible through a telescope.

Other bright stars that can be seen along with the planet are Antares (Kettai) and Spica (Chithirai), added Dr. Iyanperumal. Mars too will be visible to the west of Spica.

If you are interested in seeing the planet through a telescope, visit the Birla Planetarium, to identify the celestial visitor, from 7 p.m. between May 9 and 11. 

Keywords: Saturnastronomy