Public Observatory Nights at MSU Return and Saturn Is In Opposition

Monday, May 18, 2015, 12:36 am
Aron Sousa

Photo of Saturn courtesy of NASA

This next weekend, May 22 and 23, 2015, brings another installment of the MSU Observatory’s Public Observing Nights. Weather permitting, the festivities will begin at 9 pm and visitors will be able to look through the MSU Observatory’s 24-inch reflecting telescope.

Planets in the eastern and western skies will likely be the best viewing targets on Friday and Saturday nights. Each month, the Abrams Planetarium at MSU publishes the Sky Calendar, which is particularly useful for those interested in astronomy but not blessed with expertise in reading star charts. A quick look at the May calendar will show that next Friday and Saturday will be good nights for viewing the planet Venus, the Beehive Cluster, and Jupiter. If you need a little help or want to look through other telescopes, members of the Capital Area Astronomy Association are at Public Observation Nights with their own telescopes.

Friday night, May 22, will also be when Saturn is in opposition and therefore on exactly the opposite side of the earth from the sun. Saturn and the sun will be on opposite end of a line that also passes through the earth. The line up is called a syzygy, which has been previously covered by ELi on earth here and here.

This opposition should make for good Saturn viewing, since Saturn will be relatively close to the earth compared to other times in its orbit. Saturn will rise in the east as the sun sets at evening and will set in the morning in the west as the sun rises in the east.

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