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Planets Make Show on Oregon Coast; Saturn Burns Bright

Published 06/26/2018 at 12:52 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection Staff

Planets Make Show on Oregon Coast; Saturn Burns Bright

(Oregon Coast) – The evening skies over the Oregon coast are promising a decent show with a nice handful of planets gracing the skies of the Pacific Northwest. (Above: planets converging over the Oregon coast in 2015).

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It’s going to feel like an episode of The Expanse out there. According to OMSI astronomer Jim Todd, late June brings more of Jupiter, Mars, Saturn and Mercury. Venus has been popping up at dusk, shining brightly in the west. Jupiter has been spectacular for awhile now, continuing to burn bright in the south.

Late June, however, will see more of Mars in the east while Saturn will do a dazzling little number in the skies as it reaches opposition.

What does that mean?

Todd said everyone’s favorite ringed planet will be making its closest approach to Earth and will be seriously illuminated by the Sun. This opposition happens at June 27 at 6:15 p.m., where Saturn gets to a distance of 836 million miles or 9.05 AU.

It will be visible anywhere in Oregon, but on the Oregon coast it will be especially dramatic on the beaches at night (if the weather holds, of course).

“Saturn will be brighter than any other time of the year and will be visible all night long,” Todd said. “This happens because when Saturn lies opposite the Sun in the sky, the solar system is lined up so that Saturn, the Earth and the Sun form a straight line with the Earth in the middle, on the same side of the Sun as Saturn. This is the best time to view and photograph Saturn and its moons.”

A medium-sized or larger telescope will allow you to see Saturn's rings and a few of its brightest moons.

Todd said to look to the southeast horizon, which may make it hard to see on parts of the Oregon coast until it rises up farther in the sky. It will swing into a straighter southerly direction as the wee hours of the night go on, crossing beyond headlands like Tillamook near Seaside or Newport’s Yaquina Head and into view.

Just before midnight on June 27, look for the moon that’s already low on the horizon. Saturn will be just below that. The full moon will be hampering some of the view for awhile, however.

“Over the weeks following its opposition, Saturn will reach its highest point in the sky four minutes earlier each night, gradually receding from the pre-dawn morning sky while remaining visible in the evening sky for a few months,” Todd said.

Also happening right now: more interstellar fun with a funky-colored moon and other fun sights above.

Other things to look out for on the Oregon coast at night in the coming weeks: check the wet parts of the sand for “glowing sand.” Shuffle your feet backwards (make sure it’s dark by this time with no moonlight) and you may see tiny, greenish / blue sparks.

This is caused by tiny bioluminescent phytoplankton which glow, much like fireflies do. Summertime often increases your chances of seeing this.. Where to stay for this - Where to eat - Map and Virtual Tour

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