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Saturn’s Rings Near Maximum Tilt

20 Jun 2016, 07:01 UTC
Saturn’s Rings Near Maximum Tilt
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Date: June 20, 2016 Time: all night (sunset at 7:45 pm)Place: the southeastern to southern sky
On June 2 Saturn reached opposition, its closest approach to Earth, at a distance of 1.36 billion km (850 million miles). But it will remain in excellent position for viewing the entire month. It’s currently in the constellation Scorpius, just east of the reddish star Antares (the heart of the Scorpion). By contrast, Saturn appears “straw colored” and brighter. If you want a chart to help locate it, click on the thumbnail below.

This shows Saturn’s location at sunset, but as the night progresses you’ll see it rising higher and providing a better view. By 11 pm it will reach its highest point 36° above the horizon and due south. Mars is just to the west of Saturn, still shining brightly and also a great telescopic target.
Saturn takes about 30 years to orbit the Sun. The tilt angle of its rings can be anywhere from 0° (edge-on) to ± 27° as seen from Earth. As you can see in the photo above, when the rings are edge-on (as they were in 2009) they pretty much disappear. The rings are only about 1 km ...

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