Similar to Jupiter last month, the solar system's second largest planet will hang brightly in the skies above Earth this week. Saturn will be at opposition the night of Tuesday, July 9.
The gas giant, called "the crown jewel of our solar system" by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, will be at its closest approach to Earth with its facade in full sunlight. Saturn will be visible throughout the night of July 9 and will be brighter than at any other time this year.
Opposition is a formation where the Earth sits directly between a planet and the sun. Because of this, Saturn will rise opposite of sunset and will set in the west just prior to sunrise. It will be visible in the constellation Sagittarius, and at its highest point in the sky around midnight local time.
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The planet will be about 746 million miles from Earth during opposition. Despite the massive distance, it will be easy to see with the naked eye. If you have access to a telescope, all the better. That will get you a view of Saturn's rings and some of its largest moons like Titan, which is bigger than Mercury. The rings will be inclined at a 24-degree angle to our eyes, close to its maximum inclination. That will provide an excellent view of the rings and the planet's northern hemisphere.
The night of July 9 is opposition, but this isn't the same as trying to catch an eclipse or meteor shower. Saturn will be visible in the night sky throughout the summer. So, it's a great night to get out, but it's far from your last chance to get a great view of the ringed planet this year.
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