The Moon has a close encounter with Saturn on Tuesday night

In the southeastern sky after sunset on the evening of Tuesday, 24 July, the full moon will be 2 degrees to the upper right corner of the bright, yellowish Saturn. The two objects cross the sky together during the night and is easy in the field of the binoculars (orange circle) or a telescope at very low magnification. Meanwhile, the moon, the separation of the bright planet will drop substantially as the moon slides in an easterly direction in an orbit around the earth (green line).

Step outside around 9:30 a.m. local daylight time on Tuesday (July 24), and in one glance, you’ll be able to drink in a “parade” of bright planets.

The clearing of the western horizon, at an altitude of 10 degrees (the width of your fist held at arm’s length) Venus, which is absolutely stunning in a magnitude of -4.2.

Almost three times higher than Venus in the southwestern sky (albeit one-sixth clear) again a beautiful planet: Jupiter. Although it is not as bright as Venus, Jupiter is a wonderful object in its own right, shining nearly eight times brighter than Arcturus, the brightest star of the summer sky. [Visible Planets, July 2018: When and How to See the Bright Planets]

Then, about 5 degrees above the southeastern horizon will Mars, now resplendently bright and nearing its closest approach to the Earth in almost 15 years. The most recent reports from experts, measure of the brightness of Mars indicate that, as a result of a planetwide dust storm, the Red Planet is the result of an “extra” brightness because of the dust cloud reflects more light than the surface. Therefore, their measurements show that Mars is about 0.20 magnitude brighter that it is listed, or an eye-popping -3.0 size. And instead of sporting her signature red-orange color, Mars now appears to be more of an orange-yellow tone.

More Of

  • Arcturus

  • Visible Planets July 2018: When and How to See the Bright Planets

And then there is a fourth planet Saturn. But in contrast to the other planets mentioned, there are not really something visually distinctive about it in the night sky.

It appears as a bright “star” shining with a steady, quiet, yellow-white glow, but in comparison with Venus, Jupiter and Mars, it is really not so noticeable. A lot of people who are just starting out in astronomy probably have passed on without knowing exactly what it is. If you belong to this group, sure to make a big circle around Tuesday on the calendar.

About 1 hour after sunset that evening, looking in the direction of the south-southeast sky. About a quarter from the horizon to the point overhead will be a waxing moon, lit up 93 percent by the sun. (The moon will officially turn full on Friday, July 27.)

And floats the moon’s left will be a bright, yellowish “star” shining with a steady glow: the planet Saturn. The moon appears to be on the edge closer to Saturn as the night progresses, and the two objects appear closest together — only 1.3 degrees apart, low in the southwest between midnight and dawn.

Now that you’ve well established that these objects, if you have a telescope you can try this out on Saturn. Coincidentally, for a bright planet that appears the least “flashy” in comparison with others, Saturn, with its beautiful ring system, perhaps the most spectacular of all as seen through a telescope.

A telescope magnifying more than 30 power, easily show these rings; you might even catch a glimpse of them by means of image-stabilized high-power binoculars. The rings consist of billions of particles ranging in size from grains of sand flying mountains, which are made of — or under — water ice. This would be for their very high reflectivity. The differences in the brightness of defining different sets of rings.

Now, the north side of the rings is tilted 26.3 degrees in the direction of the Earth, nearly as wide open as they can get.

And if the clouds hide the view of Saturn and the moon, you still have a chance to see them pair off (although they are not as close as on Tuesday) on the evening of Aug. 20.

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