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This is the best time all year to see the ringed magnificence of Saturn

29 Jul 2021, 13:00 UTC
This is the best time all year to see the ringed magnificence of Saturn
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On Sunday night, August 1, the incredible beauty that is Saturn will be the closest it gets to Earth all year.

At that time it will be about 1,336,700,000 kilometers from Earth. That's still a long way — space is big, hence its name — but the planet will look incredible and gorgeous even through a small telescope.

We call this event opposition, because Saturn is opposite the Sun in the sky. Another way to think of it is that Earth is directly between Saturn and the Sun, so our two planets are as close as they can be. At any other time in its orbit the Earth will be farther from Saturn, making it appear smaller, which is why this is a great time to look at Saturn. You can't see the size directly by eye — it's still pretty far away, so it appears as a star-like dot — but any sort of magnification aid like binoculars will help. Bonus: because we're closest at opposition Saturn appears brightest, too.

Also, since it's opposite the Sun in the sky, it rises when the Sun sets, and sets when the Sun rises. It's up all night! So by the time ...

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