The night sky is full of wonderful nighttime observing objects. From galaxies, nebula, star clusters, double stars, comets and planets. The sky is a wonderful way to spend the evening with a telescope.
This summer and fall, amateur astronomers have been treated to the two largest planets: Jupiter and Saturn.
Jupiter rises first in the early evening skies, in the constellation Ophiuchus, followed about an hour later by Saturn to the east.
Saturn is further out, at over almost 800 million miles, to the east of Jupiter near the handle of the Teapot of Sagittarius. Saturn is as close to the earth as it gets all year. Saturn will be visible all night long, rising in the east, slowly crossing the night sky before it sets in the west about sunrise.
All the planets beyond the earth’s orbit move east as seen from the earth. Once in a while they seem to stop move west for a few months, stop again and continue to move east. This is because Earth’s orbit is smaller and the earth moves faster, first behind the planets then it catches up and passes the outer planets.
On Wednesday, September 18, Saturn as it orbits the Sun westward will appear to stop then resume its regular eastward motion as the earth catches up. You can follow the planets eastward motion throughout the rest of 2019.
Saturn’s disk is small but its rings are still a marvel to observe in a telescope with steady seeing.
Saturn’s rings are tipped about 25 degrees towards us. You might also see some of Saturn’s largest moons. Titan is the largest and brightest.
Saturn is easy to see throughout September and October.
Take advantage of the mild evenings this month and get out and enjoy the wonders of the night sky.