If you look in the western sky tonight after sunset, look for two bright stars close to the Moon, forming a triangle shape. What you’re actually seeing is the red super giant Antares and the planet Saturn.
Antares is huge – also known as the heart of the scorpion, its radius is over 800 times that of our Sun. Read more about it by clicking here.
Saturn is the 6th planet from the Sun, and is the most distant planet that we can easily see with the naked eye. If you’ve got a good pair of binoculars, you may be able to make out it’s yellowy colouring, and with a basic telescope you may even see it’s rings.
I still remember seeing the rings for the first time after getting my telescope – it just blew me away actually seeing for myself that it was a real planet and the rings were real too! Up to that point, it was just like any other “star” you could see in the sky.
If you’re not lucky enough to own your own telescope, if you know someone who does, I would definitely recommend asking them to let you have a look at this beautiful planet.
“Saturn-cassini-March-27-2004” by NASA / JPL / Space Science Institute
Moons of Saturn
Saturn has 62 moons – 4 of which are visible in the above image. Clockwise from top right: Enceladus (499 kilometers, 310 miles across), Mimas (398 kilometers, 247 miles across), Tethys (1060 kilometers, 659 miles across), and Epimetheus (116 kilometers, 72 miles across). If you’re lucky enough, you may even see some of the moons if your telescope is powerful enough.
How far away is Saturn
Saturn is 1.2 billion km from us when we’re closest together, and and 1.67 billion km from us when we’re furthest away. To be able to see the rings from here demonstrates just how big Saturn is. If you were to walk around it’s equator, you’d be walking for 227,349 miles or 365,882 km. To put that in perspective – that’s over 9 times as far as around the Earth.
You’d probably have difficulty walking on it though – as it’s a gas giant, made mostly of hydrogen and helium, and doesn’t have a solid surface like the Earth does.
How long does it take to spin around
Saturn’s day lasts just over 10.5 hours – for such a large planet, it spins fast!
So if you look up tonight, see if you can see the Moon with Saturn and Antares, and let me know in the comments below if you were lucky enough to see them.