August is an excellent time to dust off the telescope and gaze into space, as one of the solar system’s largest planets shines brighter than at any other time of year.
For the majority of the year, Saturn has been visible for late-night stargazers, but in August, the planet will be visible all night long, as long as it is not cloudy.
Saturn will officially reach opposition on Monday, which means it will appear opposite the sun from Earth’s perspective. Every year, Saturn is in opposition.
Around the same time of opposition, Saturn will make its closest approach to the Earth, although “close” is a relative term as more than 800 million miles will still separate the two planets. At this distance, it takes light more than one hour to travel from one planet to the other.
Saturn will be easy to spot in the sky as it rises in the south-east around sunset, tracks across the southern sky all night, and then sets in the south-west around sunrise.
Despite the fact that opposition occurs on Monday, skywatchers will have excellent views of Saturn throughout the month.
This means that people can plan to search for the planet at a time that is convenient for them and when AccuWeather meteorologists predict cloud-free conditions.
Because the opposition occurs around the time when Saturn is closest to Earth, it provides an excellent opportunity to observe Saturn through the eyepiece of a telescope.
Saturn is bright enough to be seen with the naked eye, making it an easy target to find with a telescope, especially for those who are using a telescope for the first time.
To see Saturn’s famous rings, EarthSky says that a telescope that can magnify objects at least 25 times is needed, but recommends using a more powerful telescope that can magnify objects at least 50 times to see more details.
Saturn will not be the only planet that will glow in the August sky.
Every evening, Jupiter will rise shortly after Saturn, trailing it as it glides across the sky throughout the night.
Jupiter is the brighter of the two planets, so it may be easier to find. If you’re having trouble spotting Saturn, look for the brighter Jupiter first, then look to the right to find Saturn.
This is similar to how the pair appeared in the summer sky in 2020, though Saturn was visible to the left of Jupiter last year.
Jupiter will reach opposition later this month, making it yet another planet to magnify with a telescope.
Saturn and Jupiter will remain prominent features in the night sky through much of the rest of 2021, although the pair will gradually become dimmer and dimmer throughout autumn and heading into winter.
This composite image made from six frames shows the International Space Station, with a crew of seven aboard, in silhouette as it transits the sun at roughly 5 miles per second on April 23, 2021, as seen from Nottingham, Md. Aboard are: NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, Mark Vande Hei; Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy, Pyotr Dubrov; and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi. Joining the crew aboard station the next day were Crew-2 mission crew members: Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur of NASA, JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet. Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA | License Photo