The best time to view Saturn is here. To find it tonight, look for the Moon in the south eastern sky around midnight and enjoy the golden planet shining above the reddish star Antares also known as the Heart of the Scorpion.
Even in the moonlight, with a basic telescope you should be able to make out the majestic rings of the huge gas giant.
As the night goes on, they’ll float through our night sky and can still be seen just before sunrise in the south western sky.
You’ll be able to find Saturn in the same area as Antares for the rest of the year.
Antares is 550 light years from us. So as with most of what you see in the night sky, it’s like travelling back in time. When the light you see now from the star began its journey, people on Earth still thought the Sun orbited the Earth.
It wouldn’t be until 1543, 78 years later, that Copernicus, a Polish mathematician and astronomer put forward the idea that the Earth orbited the Sun. It would take another 50 years after that before the Italian scientist, Galileo pointed the first telescope into the night sky.
The light you see now from Antares was only a quarter of the way on its journey to us now.
In size, it’s over 880 times the radius of our own sun – to put that into perspective:
Antares is also known as the Heart of the Scorpion – because of its place within the Scorpius constellation, and it twinkles red in the night sky. It’s sometimes said to be called the Scorpions Beating Heart too – as our atmosphere makes the light from it appear to blink.
Origins of its name
The name Antares derives from Ancient Greek – and means “equal to-Ares” (equal to-Mars), as it has the same reddish glow that Mars gives off.
Comparison of the size of our planets and the stars
Our Sun is huge – but when I compare it against Antares above, I get a feeling of being so small! The image below shows some of the more well known planets and stars, and the comparison in their size:
If you look west, you’ll still be able to clearly see Venus on it’s way to catch up with Jupiter.
This together with being able to see Saturn and its rings, Altares, the beating heart of the scorpion, and our own Moon in great detail, for me anyway makes looking up at the night sky something magical.
So will you see the Heart of the Scorpion and Saturn’s rings tonight?