Posted by: T. Boyd | January 29, 2009

Saturn on Edge

The only bright planets visible presently are Venus and Saturn.  The rest are hidden by the Sun.  Venus is convenient – the bright evening “star” which will be close to the Moon on Jan. 29 and 30.  I will try to catch that this evening.  And Saturn is also convenient for early risers, being fairly high in the Southern Sky in the constellation Leo.

The interesting thing about Saturn is that the rings are “on edge” – barely visible to Earth observers.  This happens twice during its 29 year travel around the Sun.  Every 15 years or so, the plane of the rings crosses the Earth to give this effect.

It’s funny – I missed it last time this happened in 1994 or 1995 – I was too busy teaching science at Caroline High!  Isn’t that ironic?  But in 1980 I saw it according to my wife.  We had just gotten married on Jan 12 of that year and she remembers me dragging her out onto the deck at 3 A.M. to see “Saturn on Edge.”  It was the first week of our marriage and it made her wonder, I am sure, what she had gotten herself into.

Well, I will try seeing it tonight again.  I wonder if she will be romantic enough to join me?  I’ll let you know.

There is an excellent picture of how it will look for the next 30 years on Wikipedia at Saturn’s rings, 2001-2029.  Here is a reduced version:

And here is a photo of how Saturn changed from March 2008 to January 2009:

Saturn in Spring 2008 and 10 months later

Saturn in Spring 2008 and 10 months later

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