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What is the Saturn Opposition?


Saturn | NASA

What is the Saturn Opposition?


By Claire Gibson, Lowell Educator

In the next few weeks of August, gaze to the southeastern night sky so see Saturn at its biggest and brightest for the year! On August 14, Saturn will enter opposition.

In general, a planetary opposition occurs when Earth is directly in between the Sun and another planet, thus the planet will be directly opposite the Sun from Earth. For the Saturn opposition, Earth is aligned between the Sun and Saturn!


What can I see in the night sky?

For observation, an opposition means that we can see a planet at its biggest and brightest for a few weeks surrounding the opposition date. On August 14, around 8:00 PM MST, Saturn will be rising in the southwestern sky as a prominent shining object in the night sky. It will continue to travel near the ecliptic plane spanning the south and western sky as Earth rotates.

Using a telescope or even a pair of binoculars, you can see the rings of Saturn and possibly some of the moons of Saturn, including Titan and Enceladus!

How often does opposition occur?

Because Saturn has an orbit around the Sun of about 29.4 years, an opposition occurs with this planet every 378 days, or roughly once a year. This is different from other planets such as Mars, where an opposition only occurs every 26 months. This is because Mars orbits much faster than Saturn, and thus takes less time to travel across the night sky.

Visual learner? Check out this explainer video on our YouTube channel! 



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