Oregon Astronomer: Good Time to See Saturn, Rings
(Manzanita, Oregon) – An Oregon astronomer says now is a great time to catch Saturn in the skies above Oregon and the Oregon coast, and its rings will be especially visible. (Above: Cannon Beach at night)
Jim Todd, planetarium manager at Portland's OMSI, said that massive planetary neighbor of Earth's will be out all night from now through most of May, visible from dusk until dawn. Todd said the rings have opened up to -18 degrees from the line of sight, meaning some of the best visibility in six years.
“Think of it this way,” said Todd. “As the sun sinks below the western horizon, Saturn will rise above the eastern horizon at a similar rate. Why? Because, remember, at opposition, Saturn is opposite the sun. Every year around the time we go between the sun and Saturn, the ringed planet is at its closest to Earth and brightest in our sky. "
To spot Saturn, Todd said to look just the star Spica of Virgo in the evening sky. Trace a line down the arc of the Big Dipper's handle to Arcturus, the brightest star in the constellation of Bootes the Herdsman. From here, you “drive the spike down to Spica,” the brightest star in the constellation of Virgo the Maiden. (Above photo: Arch Cape)
“Once you identify Spica, notice the bright golden star-like object somewhat nearby,” Todd said. “That’ll be Saturn. The star, Spica, shines blue-white and twinkles, while the planet, Saturn, is golden and shines steadily."
SkyMaps.com has star maps for the month of April to locate Spica and Saturn.
“But the smallest telescope will reveal a charming image of planet and the rings which are tilted now more than they have been in recent years and so are easy to spot,” Todd said. “Best bet, come to any of one of the scheduled OMSI Star Party to get the best view of Saturn through variety of telescopes.”
The next OMSI Star Party is Saturday, May. 25, at sunset at Rooster Rock State Park in the Gorge or L.L. "Stub" Stewart State Park in the Oregon coast range.
See Oregon coast weather information for Seaside, Cannon Beach, Manzanita, Rockaway Beach, Garibalidi, Tillamook, Oceanside, Pacific City, Lincoln City, Depoe Bay, Newport and Yachats.
“What does that mean?,” Todd said. “For one thing, Saturn will begin appearing fainter throughout May and June than it was in April because the distance between our two worlds will be increasing.”
Above: Cape Foulweather near Depoe Bay
Above: Moon halo over Depoe Bay
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