No equipment necessary.
If an evening of stargazing is on your summer bucket list, the month of June might be the time to cross it off. This Friday, June 3, Saturn will be at opposition, meaning it will align with the Earth and appear opposite the sun in the sky. Because Saturn, which is the sixth planet from the sun and the second largest in our solar system, will be closer than usual, it will look brighter and will be visible all night.
Don’t have a telescope—or even binoculars? The planet will still be bright enough to see without any equipment. In fact, Saturn is actually the farthest planet from the sun that can be viewed with the unaided eye. Those who do have binoculars, however, should put them to use.
“Observers with powerful binoculars or a small telescope will be in for even more of a treat as they will be able to discern Saturn’s famous icy rings,” says Jonathan Kemp, a telescope specialist at Middlebury College Observatory.
Weather permitting, the planet will be visible for much of the summer from most locations in North America. It will be up for most of the night in early June, and will continue to remain impressive throughout July before disappearing later in autumn. It will re-appear at opposition next year on June 15, 2017.
“For North American observers, the yellowish planet can be spotted rising around dusk in the southeast and moving westward across the southern portion of the sky in the constellation Ophiuchus and near the bright star Antares,” Kemp says.
Mars and Jupiter are also currently visible—look for Mars just to the west, or right, of Saturn in the southern part of the sky. And mark your calendar for Saturday, June 18, when Saturn will only be a few degrees away from a nearly full moon.