20 November 2011

Saturn Returns

Saturn has returned to the morning sky, rising higher each day shining in the east before sunrise. It is near the bright blue giant star Spica, in the constellation Virgo, and this week is graced by a visit from the Moon, creating a beautiful grouping on the morning of November 22nd.

Saturn and Spica are an interesting pair to compare. They are a contrast in color, with Spica shining a deep blue, and Saturn with a yellow-white tinge. Spica is 260 light years away, distant compared to many other bright stars in the evening sky, but being a giant star, it emits enough light to be the 15th brightest star in our night sky. Saturn is 80 light minutes away, a giant planet by Solar System standards, but due to its distance it never shines as bright as other Solar System objects such as Venus and Jupiter. But Saturn still captivates all who see it through a telescope because of its impressive ring system, making it a welcome target for any star gazer.

Image courtesy Sky & Telescope Magazine

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