Saturn’s rings shine at maximum brightness in July, offers stargazers great view

Astronomers and stargazers will have their telescopes trained on Saturn this month to get an up-close view of its shimmering, icy rings and many moons.

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The sixth planet from the sun will offer up a brilliant celestial show as it enters into what astronomers call opposition on Tuesday afternoon, moving between the Earth and the sun when it’s at its brightest and closest to Earth, according to EarthSky.org.

When the planet is opposite the sun, it’s at its best and brightest for viewing and is visible all night, EarthSky reported.

This is also the time of year when Saturn’s mysterious rings will be visible with a an amateur telescope.
Sky watchers can spot the giant planet as it rises in the southeast sky around sunset, moves high into the sky by midnight and sets in the east at sunrise. 

But if you miss Saturn in opposition Tuesday, you’re still in luck. The planet will remain clearly visible in all its splendor for the next three months.

Saturn is about 886 million miles from Earth and nine times wider. NASA uses an example that says, if Earth were the size of a nickel, Saturn would be as big as a volleyball. 

Scientists believe Saturn’s dazzling rings are made from pieces of comets, asteroids or shattered moons that broke up before they reached the planet’s surface, according to NASA. 

It’s a massive gas giant made of mostly hydrogen and helium and surrounded by more than 60 moons. It’s also home to bizarre and fascinating landscapes, including sprays of water jets on Enceladus and methane lakes on Titan.

A 3D model of Saturn, the ringed gas giant planet.
Photo: NASA Visualization Technology Applicatio

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