Saturn outshone

Back on May 23, Saturn was at its full glory, that is to say, its opposition; it was 180 degrees from the Sun, and entered the evening sky. Now its distance from the Sun (elongation) is down to about 170 degrees. The Moon has been flying out to meet it, and on June 1 – only 20 hours before becoming Full – will pass about 2 degrees north of Saturn.

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The moment of the closest approach (appulse) is June 1 at 20 hours Universal Time, which in eastern America is 8 PM EDT (9 PM by natural time). So the appulse is after the time of sunset in Europe, but before sunset in America. The Moon will have traveled on, leaving Saturn about 5 degrees behind.

The huge Moon, with Saturn in front of it but at first invisible, peers over the eastern horizon not long before the Sun vanishes in the west. Interesting will be to see how soon the pinprick of the planet’s light becomes discernible in the combined glow of the low sky and glare from the Moon.

Meanwhile over in the west –

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– the only two brighter planets, Venus and Jupiter, continue to draw closer together. Venus’s magnitude at this time is -4.4, Jupiter’s -1.9, and Saturn’s 0, like the brightest stars.

 

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