Just as Jupiter came into opposition (opposite the Sun in the sky for sky-watchers on Earth)last month, and its best position for viewing in 2019, so too does Saturn come into opposition on July 9th. Sky-watchers with telescopes will be able to get splendid images of both of the two biggest planets in our Solar System, but those without scopes will not be disappointed. Jupiter and Saturn will be on display all summer and into the fall.
Jupiter is clear of the southeast horizon by nightfall and is well up in the southern sky before midnight, unmistakable at magnitude –2.6. Telescopes reveal its colored cloud-banded surface and the changing positions of its 4 biggest moons around it. One can also detect that Jupiter appears flattened from pole to pole so that it looks wider at its equator. This is due to its rapid rotation (less than 10 hours) and its mostly gaseous composition. Binoculars will also reveal Jupiter as a disk and show its 4 big moons. Naked eye observers will delight at its shining brightness. Check it out on your local 4th of July fireworks night!
Saturn clears the southeast horizon at sunset and will be nicely positioned in the south by midnight on July 1st and by 10 pm on the 31st. Not as bright as Jupiter, Saturn is still the next brightest thing in the evening sky. Find it to the left of Jupiter
Of course, it is Saturn’s rings that make it so interesting to those with telescopes, but binoculars give a decent hint of the rings. With a telescope, the rings are seen with clear divisions between some of them and a hint of Saturn’s own bands of colored clouds. Saturn also shows 5 to 6 moons that can be spotted through a telescope in the nearby sky around it. Jupiter and Saturn are indeed a great summer treat for us.
July 20, 2019 marks the 50 year anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, when America and the whole world heard the immortal words of Neil Armstrong, “On small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.” Where were you when it happened?
Though a total Solar Eclipse and a partial Lunar Eclipse occur this month, both events will be seen only by sky-watchers in Asia, the south Pacific Ocean, and Chile. The next lunar eclipse we will see is in 2020 and the next solar eclipse for us is in 2024.