Sixth Sense

There's A Very Good Reason Stargazers Everywhere Are Looking At Saturn Right Now

Saturn season is upon us!

Originally Published: 
Cassini image of Saturn in the shadow of the planet.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Avid stargazers know that in the summer months, it’s easier to spot Saturn, the gorgeous planet that’s known for all its rings, in our night sky. Currently, you have to wake up at the crack of dawn to get a great view of Saturn, but as we head deper into the summer, aka Saturn season, it’s going to get easier to spot the planet. If that’s not reason enough to look up through your scope, some very exciting science news about the planet has launched something of a boom in Saturn gazing.

Phil Plait, a professional astronomer and writer known to many as the “Bad Astronomer,” explains in Scientific American that there’s been an increased interest in looking at Saturn because of one very good reason. Scratch that, 63 very good reasons.

Not only does “new research indicates its rings are relatively young, cosmically speaking” — a surprising and fascinating find that has many astronomy geeks talking — but “astronomers have also just announced the discovery of a whole passel of tiny Saturnian satellites that make the planet the current record holder for the greatest number of moons,” Plait writes.

Previously, Jupiter held the title for the most moons around the planet with 95, but the new discovery of 62 moons around Saturn brought its total to over 140, and the only planet with over 100 moons.

Despide this news turning many stargazers’ attentions to the sky, it’s unlikely an amateur astronomy will be able to spot the moons. Scientists had to use the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, a 3.6-meter telescope in Hawaii, to see the moons, after all. But it’s still worth it to take a look while we’re in Saturn season and to bask in the eery rings of one of the solar system’s most fascinating planets.

How To Spot Saturn In The Summer.

According to Scientific American, Saturn rises earlier and gets higher up in the sky as the summer progresses. “By late June it rises around midnight in many locations, for example, and by late August it reaches the sky watching sweet spot: it rises at sunset and stays up all night,” Plait explains.

You can technically spot Saturn with the naked eye — it will look starlight with a slight golden color, according to The Farmer’s Almanac. If you have binoculars, you’ll be able to spot more of the golden color, but if you’re hoping to see the rings, you’ll need to get at least 25x magnification. So read up on Saturn with your kids (starting with NASA’s guide which includes kid-friendly pages; then capping with the the Cassini mission episode on Netflix’s 7 Days Out), get out your astronomy app to pinpoint the planet, aim your scope, and great ready for a summer of Saturn.

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