Archive for August 6, 2020

08/06/2020 – Ephemeris – Looking at Saturn through a small telescope

August 6, 2020 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Thursday, August 6th. Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 25 minutes, setting at 9:01, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:36. The Moon, 3 days past full, will rise at 10:55 this evening.

The planet Saturn is just to the left or east of Jupiter in the southeastern evening sky. In steadily held binoculars Saturn is not star-like, but it’s not round either. It’s a small oval dot. The oval or ellipse is due to its rings of small icy bodies that orbit the planet over its equator. A telescope in needed to appreciate those rings to their fullest extent. Saturn’s largest moon Titan will be visible tonight in line with the eastern extent of the rings. Saturn, like the Earth has an axial tilt. In its case it’s 26 degrees. And the rings orbit over Saturn’s equator. So as Saturn orbits the Sun in it’s nearly 30 year orbit the aspect of the rings change over that period. The ellipse shape of the rings are getting thinner now, and in 5 years they will be seen to disappear for a bit.

The event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.


Saturn's rings change.

How the appearance of the rings change as Saturn orbits the Sun. The rings were at their widest in 2017. They are closing and will be edge-on again in 2025. When edge-on the rings literally disappear. Despite being 150,000 miles wide as we look at the planet, they are generally less than 66 feet (20 meters) in thickness. Credit: NASA Hubble.