April 15 – Saturn at Opposition

On April 15, 2012, the planet Saturn will be in opposition. This means that the planet will be opposite to the sun when viewed from the earth. Being opposite to the sun means that it will rise when the sun sets and set when the sun rises. The fact that Saturn will be in opposition means that it is closest to the sun and, thus, will be a spectacular view in the night sky. The planet Saturn belongs to a group of planets known as the superior planets. Other members of the superior planet family include Mars, Jupiter, Uranus, Neptune and Uranus. The best time to view this group of planets is during opposition. The year 2012 is a good year for observing the planet Saturn because of the fact that it will be near the star Spica, which is a bright star in the constellation Virgo. Out of all stars visible at night, it is the 15th brightest, making it easily visible. Spica is always present in the evenings of April, but is most visible during autumn in the southern hemisphere and spring in the northern hemisphere. Still, the month of April is the best month for seeing the planet Saturn in all it’s glory.

Explaining the opposition on April 15th

As you are probably aware, our earth is relatively smaller compared to the planet Saturn and, thus, orbits the sun at a faster rate. Despite this disparity, there always comes a time when the two planets are opposite to each other. This is a yearly occurrence. But why is April 15 the best time to look at the planet Saturn? Of the brightest planets present in the sky, Saturn is the faintest. However, on April 15, Saturn will appear as a bright planet because of the fact that the earth will be passing Saturn from an inside track around the sun. On this date, regardless of your position on the globe, Saturn will be at its highest point around midnight. This will place the planet at an approximate distance of 8.72 AU, shinning at a magnitude of 0.7. Unfortunately, this distance does not make it possible for you to see it with your naked eyes, especially if you want a vintage view of Saturn rings. Once this opposition is achieved Saturn will reach the highest point in the sky at least four minutes earlier in the preceding night, gradually receding in the evening sky for the next few months to come.

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