On July 9, Saturn is at opposition, nearly a month after Jupiter was in the opposite direction in the sky from the sun.
Saturn is near opposition for several nights before and after reaching this point opposite the sun. To locate the planet step outside after the sky darkens. The chart above shows the sky about 90 minutes after sunset; check your sources for the time of sunset at your location. (For example, in Chicago, Illinois, the time for the above chart is 10 p.m. CDT. Near Omaha, Nebraska, 90 minutes after sunset is 10:30 p.m. CDT.)
Jupiter is the bright “star” that is almost south, but less than one-third of the way up in the sky. Golden-orange Antares is to the lower right of Jupiter. Saturn is farther left of Jupiter in the southeast, lower in the sky than Jupiter. Saturn is among the stars of Sagittarius, brighter than those surrounding stars, but not as bright as Jupiter. For perspective, the moon is outside the chart. The gibbous moon is in the southwest, above the bluish star Spica. On July 15, the nearly full moon is to the right of Saturn.
Through a telescope, the planet’s rings are revealed. If you’re careful, you might see its a few of its moons, depending on the diameter of the lens or the mirror and the magnification that is used. The large gap in the rings, Cassini’s Division, might be seen as well.
Viewing Saturn through a telescope is one of life’s memorable experiences. If you view this spectacular ringed wonder through a telescope, you will certainly remember. A child will remember this experience.
Opposition occurs when Earth passes between a planet farther from the sun than Earth (Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune) and the sun. The planet rises at sunset, appears in the south around midnight, and sets in the west. When at opposition, the outer planets are closest to Earth, at their brightest points in the sky, and provide the best telescopic views.
Saturn appears at opposition again on July 20, 2020, when it reaches that point just six days after Jupiter’s opposition. Jupiter passes Saturn in December 2020 for a Great Conjunction that occurs about every 20 years.