Saturn is the most distant of the five planets easily visible to the naked eye, the other four being Mercury, Venus, Mars and Jupiter (Uranus and occasionally 4 Vesta are visible to the naked eye in very dark skies). Saturn appears to the naked eye in the night sky as a bright, yellowish point of light whose apparent magnitude is usually between +1 and 0. It takes approximately 29½ years to make a complete circuit of the ecliptic against the background constellations of the zodiac. Most people will require optical aid (very large binoculars or a small telescope) magnifying at least 30× to clearly resolve Saturn’s rings.

While it is a rewarding target for observation for most of the time it is visible in the sky, Saturn and its rings are best seen when the planet is at or near opposition (the configuration of a planet when it is at an elongation of 180° and thus appears opposite the Sun in the sky). During the opposition of December 17, 2002, Saturn appeared at its brightest due to a favorable orientation of its rings relative to the Earth, even though Saturn was closer to the Earth and Sun in late 2003. Twice every Saturnian year (roughly every 15 Earth years), the rings appear edge on and briefly disappear from view because they are so thin. This will next occur in 2025, but Saturn will be too close to the sun for any ring crossing observation.

Imaging telescopes or lenses: Celestron C8 SCT
Imaging cameras: QHYCCD QHY5L-II Mono
Mounts: Skywatcher HEQ5 Pro Goto
Software: Registax, photoshop
Accessories: GSO Barlow 2.5 x Triplet
Date: April 8, 2014
Frames: 4000
FPS: 10.00000
Focal length: 5000

Author: Leandro Fornaziero

AstroPhotography of the day by SPONLI
02 May 2014