Saturn is named for the Roman god of agriculture, who is also the father of Jupiter. Saturn is the farthest planet from Earth to be discovered in ancient times. That’s because, along with Mercury, Venus, Mars, and Jupiter, Saturn is visible with the naked eye. People have been enjoying views of Saturn for thousands of years, and it remains one of the best planets for amateur astronomers to investigate from the comfort of their own backyard. With a little bit of knowledge, you can look at Saturn unaided, but with the right equipment, you can really see the ringed gas giant.
Because it is so large, Saturn is incredibly easy to see with a simple telescope. There are few more beautiful sights available to amateur astronomers than Saturn’s surface and the rings that surround the planet. If you want to learn everything you need to know to get a view of the sixth planet from the sun, read on.
When Is Saturn Visible?
This year Saturn will be visible almost every night. Throughout January and February, Saturn will be close enough to the sun that you won’t be able to see it. Come March, Saturn will enter the night sky. It will appear low in the sky on the eastern horizon about an hour before sunrise.
As the year progresses, Saturn will become visible earlier and earlier. It will also climb higher into the sky. In June it will reach its highest point of the entire year.
Through most of July and August, as Saturn enters and leaves opposition, the planet will be visible in the sky all night long. During the back portion of the year, Saturn shifts its habits and begins to appear only in the evening.
When is Saturn at its brightest in the sky?
Whether or not Saturn is at its brightest depends not just on its distance from Earth and position in the sky, but also on the tilt of its rings. When the rings are at their minimum tilt, Saturn shines at a 1.7 magnitude. However, when the rings reach their maximum tilt, the planet can shine at up to -0.55 magnitude.
Like the Earth, Saturn sits on a tilted axis. Saturn’s rings, however, sit at a relatively fixed position around the planet. Because of that, the relative tilt of its rings towards Earth changes as the planet revolves around the sun.
Saturn makes a full revolution around the sun only once every 29.4 years. At that rate of revolution, Saturn’s rings rotate their angle towards the Earth on a 15-year cycle.
If you’re planning on taking a look at Saturn soon, you’re in luck. In 2021, Saturn’s rings have only just passed their point of maximum tilt. The planet is just about as bright as it ever gets.
Even if you’re preparing to see Saturn at a different point in its cycle, the planet remains one of the most visible bodies in the cosmos. After all, people have been observing it for millennia.
When can you see Saturn through a telescope?
In 2021, Saturn will be too close to the sun to be visible throughout all of January and February. After that, Saturn will be visible every single night of the year, but at different times.
From March through August, Saturn will be visible before sunrise. In March, Saturn will be visible for about an hour before the sun comes up. Over time, Saturn will be visible earlier and earlier.
When Saturn is in opposition, it will be visible all night long. After that, Saturn will start to be visible only in the evenings. It will dip below the horizon earlier and earlier until it begins the cycle over again.
How To Get The Best View of Saturn
It doesn’t take much to get a great view of Saturn. Because the planet is so massive and bright, even a simple pair of binoculars will afford you a decent view.
You’ll want to make sure that you know what time of the morning or evening Saturn will make an appearance. It would also be a good idea to consult a star chart, either in a book or on your phone, to learn exactly where Saturn will be sitting in the sky on the night you choose to observe it.
The best time to see Saturn is on its date of opposition. Saturn will be at its brightest, and it will be visible the entire night, so you’ll have plenty of time to find it in the night’s sky.
Remember that before Saturn enters opposition, you can expect to find it in the sky before sunrise. After opposition, Saturn will become a night owl.
After that, all you’ll really need is a clear sky to see Saturn through a telescope.
Once a year, when a planet reaches its closest point to Earth’s orbit, it enters “opposition”. Saturn will enter opposition on August 2nd.
At that point, Saturn will be about 1.35 billion kilometers away from the Earth. It will also be the second brightest object in the sky, losing out only to Jupiter.
How to find Saturn with your phone
Your phone can be a useful tool when you’re trying to locate Saturn or any other planet. There are a variety of different stargazing apps that contain charts and other information that will make your viewing as easy as possible.
Two of the most popular stargazing apps are Star Tracker and Google Sky. Both of the apps are free, and either of them would be a perfect way to get a sense of the planet before viewing Saturn through a telescope.
How to Find Saturn In A Telescope
Believe it or not, finding Saturn with a telescope starts with your eyes. When you’ve got all your equipment set up, look to the horizon where you expect to find Saturn. It will jump out to you almost right away because it is one of the brightest objects in the sky. It also shines a pale yellow color.
Line up the crosshairs of your finderscope with the “star” you sighted with your eyes. You should be able to tell immediately upon looking through your eyepiece that you’ve found the planet.
Saturn looks incredibly clear even through a very simple telescope. If your telescope has any kind of strong magnification, you should have no trouble distinguishing Saturn’s rings from the planet’s surface.
Which telescope is best for observing Saturn?
Just about any telescope will be perfectly suitable for viewing Saturn. If your especially shorthanded, you can even try to view the planet through a strong pair of binoculars.
For the best view of Saturn through a telescope, you’ll want something that has a long focal range and a high aperture. The same property applies to viewing Saturn as to viewing any planet through a telescope: you want to be able to focus and get a high-resolution image of a very narrow slice of space.
If you get a telescope designed for looking for planets, you’ll be all set for the best possible view of Saturn.
Eyepieces, And Filters For Observing Saturn
Jupiter is so massive that it’s relatively easy to distinguish its surface features through a telescope in your own backyard. That isn’t quite the case with Saturn. Though the planet is many times the size of Earth, it still isn’t big enough for its surface to be visible to a typical commercial telescope.
However, you might be able to see a few details by using a filter to aid your viewing. Putting a dark blue (Number 38A) or blue (80A) filter on your telescope could reveal a few of the bands that are on Saturn’s surface.
What does Saturn look like through a telescope?
The first thing you’ll notice about looking at Saturn through a telescope is the planet’s impressive size. Saturn will look like a massive orange ball filling up the center of your vision. Because Saturn’s rings are only just past their maximum tilt, they will be very bright when you look at them.
You’ll also have an excellent view of Saturn’s rings. If you have good equipment and good eyesight, you should challenge yourself by seeing if you can tell where the ring separates into distinct bands. With the right telescope, this is possible even from your backyard.
Telescope views of Saturn
You’ll be able to get some amazing views of Saturn through a telescope in your own backyard. Saturn is one of the most impressive views available to anyone with a regular telescope.
You might be wondering if you’ll be able to see any of Saturn’s moons. You’re in luck. Saturn has an incredible 82 different moons. The planet’s largest moon, Titan, is a good one for you to try viewing.
Titan is larger than the Earth’s moon. In fact, Saturn’s largest moon is larger than a whole planet – Mercury. The moon will be further away from Saturn than you expect, but your stargazing apps should be able to help you find it.
Now you’re officially ready to head out to the backyard and gaze at one of the best sights astronomy has to offer. Enjoy the view!
To observing every planet through a telescope there are a few little tips and tricks to get the best view and our site is here to help.