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Saturn at its closest and brightest now for Washington, Oregon, the coast

Published 08/26/23 at 3:27 p.m.
y Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

(Portland, Oregon) – If you like looking up at the stars, you're going to love the evenings in August in Washington, Oregon and along the coastlines. Jupiter has been the standout for months and still is: that extremely bright star that has even been cutting through some of the thin clouds and wildfire haze. Saturn, however, will be making a grand appearance in the south and southeast skies, as it reaches opposition on Sunday. Photo credits: NASA, ESA, and Amy Simon (NASA-GSFC); Image Processing: Alyssa Pagan (STScI))

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According to Jim Todd of OMSI in Portland, Oregon, opposition lets Saturn become the biggest we'll see it all year, though it will tend to drop below the horizon by 1 a.m. Also, it won't be nearly as bright as Jupiter, but still at its brightest of the year.

“For stargazers and astrophotographers, it's an ideal time to view and photograph the superior planets,” Todd said.

If you're on the Oregon coast or Washington coast, varying amount of clouds will be present, so that could dampen your ability to see Saturn. For other areas of the Pacific Northwest, places like Seattle, Portland or Spokane will be dealing with haze and / or smoke, while southern Oregon will definitely be seeing more smoke.

However, Saturn began entering opposition early this month and it will take a couple of weeks before that brightness diminishes.

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“The planet Saturn will be in opposition on Sunday, August 27th,” Todd said. “At a distance of 814 million miles or 8.76 AU, the ringed planet will be making its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. At a magnitude of 0.41, Saturn will be brighter than any other time of the year. Around its August 26-27 opposition, Saturn is rising in the east at sunset and visible all night. 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.”

Above Cannon Beach (Oregon Coast Beach Connection)

You'll find Saturn easy to spot in the nighttime sky, Todd said. Look to the horizon to the south during most of the year, and there Saturn sits fairly high in the sky. While in opposition, the ringed planet hangs out in lower elevations as darkness falls. It doesn't get higher than 33 degrees in the sky, however. That happens about 1:10 a.m.

Todd said this is the best time to view Saturn's rings.

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“The rings of Saturn can be seen in any telescope that magnifies at least 25 times, but the larger the aperture and the sharper the image, the more detail that can be made out,” he told Oregon Coast Beach Connection. “A medium-sized or larger telescope will allow you to see Saturn's largest moon, Titan nearby. In opposition, Saturn’s rings are tilted by 8.1 degrees, relative to earthly viewers. “

Courtesy NASA / Cassini spacecraft

Afterward, for the rest of 2023, Saturn will remain visible in the evening sky. It will finally disappear in the sunset glare by February 2024.

Todd said Saturn comes to opposition nearly every earthly year. A year is the length of time Earth takes to travel once around the sun. But Saturn’s orbit around the sun takes 29.4 Earth years. So each year we have to travel slightly farther in orbit to catch up to and pass, Saturn again. Thus Saturn's oppositions are roughly 378 days apart and Saturn’s opposition comes about two weeks later each year.

You can learn more about Saturn and the current night sky in OMSI Planetarium’s show, Starry Night Live!. For a schedule, go to

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Bandon, Photo Courtesy Manuela Durson Fine Arts

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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