Sky gazers will be in for a treat to view the planet Saturn at its brightest on Sunday in the sky, as it reaches "opposition" and positions itself directly opposite to the sun.
The event will be a rare phenomenon as Saturn, popularly known as the "Lord of the Rings", will make its closest approach to Earth that will not be encountered again till 2023. The celestial event is called an "opposition" because Saturn will be opposite the sun in the skies of Earth.
According to SPACE director CB Devgun, the planet will be at its "opposition" today (Sunday) at 13:58 IST. In the evening, the planet will be seen rising in the east at sunset. It will stay up all night and set in the west on Monday at sunrise.
Saturn will make its closest approach to Earth and will be located at a distance of around 132.20 crore kms away from Earth. It can be easily spotted through naked eyes as the planet at "opposition" is about twice as bright as a first-magnitude star, said NASA.
The best time to view the planet is to wait till the planet raises high in the sky late evening. It will be a bright star glowing in white with a touch of yellow, Alan MacRobert, senior editor of Sky & Telescope, told the Los Angeles Times. Those using telescopes will be able to see the planet by placing their telescopes towards east and spot it an hour after sunset.
"Observers who see Saturn for the first time through the eyepiece of a telescope often gasp. The view is Hubble-esque, but the experience is much more personal. You're seeing Saturn with your own eyes, a celestial wonder right out of the pages of an Astronomy magazine. The sight of that cloudy sphere suspended in the middle of crisp, thin icy rings is almost unreal," NASA said in a statement.
Saturn's five moons - Enceladus, Rhea, Titan, Dione and Tethys - will also be visible through good telescopes, according to Indo-Asian News Service (IANS).
The last time Saturn came close to Earth was on 15 April 2012 and the next approach will be on 10 May 2014. However, the closest approach to Earth that Saturn makes on Sunday (28 April) will not be seen for a decade till 2023.