Saturn Highlights the Spring Sky
Posted April 2, 2008 12:28 p.m. EDT
Updated April 2, 2008 12:42 p.m. EDT
As we get deeper into spring, the winter constellations fade away into the glare of the setting Sun, and the spring constellations get higher in the evening sky. Although the spring constellations are not quite as bright or as familiar as the winter constellations, they do have one special guest: Saturn.
Saturn is one of the best objects in the entire sky to view through a telescope. I've heard people say it looks "fake" or like a sticker when they see it for the first time, because it looks just like it does in all the pictures. With a relatively small telescope, you can easily make out Saturn's famous rings, and possibly a few of its moons.
Saturn moves relatively slowly around the Sun, taking about 30 years to make a full orbit. Because it takes so long to orbit, it moves slowly relative to the background stars and constellations. Right now, Saturn is in Leo and will not move past Leo’s boundaries for over a year, when it moves into Virgo.
To find Saturn and Leo, look for a bright star-like object very high in the southern sky around 10 p.m. in April. Saturn will be the brightest star-like object in that area of the sky. If you’re having trouble finding it, you can also use the familiar big dipper. Leo is directly south of the big dipper, so make believe you grab the handle of the dipper and slam it southward, and the first thing you’ll hit is Leo
Morehead Planetarium and Science Center’s monthly skywatching session is on Saturday, April 12 from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. at Jordan Lake’s Ebenezer Church Recreation Area. We’ll be checking out Saturn, Mars, and a crescent Moon through telescopes, and presenting guided tours of the night sky.