Saturn in opposition 2015: How to find the ringed planet in tonight's sky

May 22 will be the best night to see Saturn in 2015

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The Independent Online

It’s been a bumper season of planet spotting in the night sky and tonight is the turn of Saturn to show itself in all its glory.

The most famous of the ringed planets is in opposition on the night of May 22 and that gives you clearest chance of getting a look this gas giant, although you will need a telescope if you want to see more than a golden light in the sky.

To say that Saturn is in opposition refers to its place in the cosmos relative to the Earth and the Sun. When the orbits line up such that our rocky sphere sits exactly between those two larger bodies, then that’s what we’re talking about. The result is that just as we see the sun setting on the western part of the horizon, the little dot that’s Saturn will pop up in the east. Of course, you might not be in a position to look out for it right at the moment, so here’s how you spot it in the night sky.

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How to find Saturn in the night sky (EarthSky.org)

Scorpius is the constellation to look out for. If you happen to know what Scorpius looks like, then great but, chances are that you don’t. It’s supposed to look like a Scorpion but, like with most constellations, it doesn’t really. All you’ll be able to see is the head of it popping up above the south-eastern part of the horizon, anyway.

The best way to describe it is as a T-shape at a slightly jaunty angle made up of five stars and with a particularly bright and reddish one at the base called Antares. The arc of the three stars above Antares is the crown of the scorpion.

Once you’ve found that, look almost straight up just a short way beyond the stars of the crown and you should find Saturn and, if you do want to see it, rings and all, then you’ll need a telescope with a 25x magnification.

Although tonight’s a good one for Saturn spotting, you’ll still be able to catch it at points in the evening throughout May and June. But, if it’s opposition that you’re after, then you’ll have to wait until June 3 next year. Happy gazing.

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