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Saturn to appear brightest on January 13

January 12, 2005 09:33 IST

Stargazers will have a rare opportunity on January 13 and 14 to observe the 'brightest' Saturn when Earth passes between Sun and the ringed planet.

This year's 'Opposition of Saturn' is considered the brightest till the 'opposition' on December 11, 2031, according to the Akash Ganga Centre for Astronomy at Badlapur at Thane district.

Amateur astronomers will also have a chance to observe Saturn's satellites, it said.

At opposition, a planet also comes closest to Earth and shines at its brightest for the year. Oppositions of Saturn come about two weeks later every year. After this year's opposition, Saturn will become dim year by year, and in 2009/2010 appear at its dimmest in its 29.5-year cycle, the centre said.

There are two reasons why this year's opposition is so favourable. First, Saturn is about as close to Earth as it can get -- a distance of just over 8 AU. (Astronomical Unit, the mean distance between Earth and Sun, about 150,000,000 km.)

Secondly, the rings are almost as wide open as they can get. These rings reflect a lot of sunlight, making the planet bright to the naked eye. In 2009, Saturn's rings will appear edge-on, featuring the planet at its dimmest.

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