BOSTON (CBS) — With Saturn and Earth at a close point in their orbits around the Sun, New England residents will have a spectacular view of the Ringed Planet for the next few weeks.
In cosmic terms, Saturn is in “opposition” this weekend, according to the American Astronomical Society. This phenomenon occurs when Earth stands mostly perfectly in line between Saturn and the Sun.
When viewed from Earth, Saturn is brightest during opposition. It is also when the shadow cast by Saturn angles straight back so that it darkens neither the east nor the west side of the planet’s rings.
Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun and second largest in the solar system, with a radius of about nine times the Earth’s. The most pronounced features of Saturn are its rings, which are made up of mostly water ice and are about 30 feet thick.
A high-quality set of binoculars or a small telescope will be required to see Saturn’s rings while it is in opposition.
More than 60 moons are known to orbit the gas-giant, including Titan, the second-largest moon in the solar system. Titan has a nitrogen-rich atmosphere that may have been similar to Earth’s long ago, according to the American Astronomical Society.