Saturday, and Saturn is at opposition. A planet’s crowning time is when it is right at the opposite side of the celestial sphere from the Sun.


Here is the scene at two hours after sunset this evening. Saturn has appeared in the east, having risen as the Sun went down. By midnight the beautiful planet will climb to its highest in the south – about where the star Spica is now.

Way over to the west, Jupiter is still high, with the slim Moon coming up past it; and Venus – the brightest of all these except for the Moon – is going down, to set in about an hour.

Actually, the moment of opposition was Saturday May 23 2 hours Universal Time, which was back on Friday May 22 in America (9 PM on the east coast, or 10 by Eastern Daylight-Shifting Time). But we want to take the chance to celebrate Saturn’s opposition on his own day.

The Romans called the days of the week after the planets (or their gods) Sol, Luna, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn; and the Romance languages (those descended from Latin) have kept these Latin names, approximately (Lundi, Mardi, Mercredi, Jeudi and so on). The Germanic languages, including English, substituted for these the names of their own corresponding gods: Sun, Moon, Tiw, Woden, Thor, Frigg – except in the case of the seventh day, for which we have kept jolly old Saturn. I don’t know whether anyone has found a reason for this exception; perhaps there was no sufficiently easygoing fellow, with mud and manure from the farmyard on his boots, among the Northern pantheon.

Oh, yes, there was a Latin word satur. It meant “sated,” and is one of the words, along with satis, “enough,” satum, “sown,” and others, that may or may not have underlain the god’s name.

There is of course more about planet Saturn and his opposition and his satellites and his rings in the SATURN section of Astronomical Calendar 2015.

5 thoughts on “Satur”

  1. Guy, I love the 180 degree horizon panorama ~ you used to include these often in your Astronomical Calendars of the 1980’s but stopped sometime in the early 90’s. For me, these diagrams transport you to a location far out in the country on a hilltop with no trees where you can see the entire sky and just gaze up to see (half of) everything in its place.

  2. Oh man! Can it get any better than this?! Could one possibly see Saturn in daylight at its opposition. Who cares if not? It’s visilble all nite long. Too much!

    1. Jack, I plan to mention this daylight-seeing of stars at the Moon-Saturn conjunction. You might mention you rmethod – do you look through a tube, like Argelander?

      1. Guy, I thought about using a tube to direct other folks’ eyes to these ‘daytime’ planets, but haven’t yet figured a means of mounting one a tripod. I don’t know Argelander. What’s his secret?

        1. Argelander was a 19th-century German astronomer and he had success seeing stars and planets in the daytime by looking through a blackened tube – or so I think I read somewhere, but I can’t find the reference now. I don’t know whether he mounted the tube on a tripod or telescope; I assumed he just knew where to point it and looked through it.

          I realize now that this Moon-Saturn conjunction is not a good opprtunity for seeing Saturn in daytime because, being near opposition, it’s never high in the daytime, so we’ll keep all that till the June Moon-Venus and Moon-Jupiter conjunctions, which are closer than the May ones.

Write a comment