On the UK night of 6—7 July 2017, three weeks after the opposition of Saturn in the constellation of Ophiuchus, the ringed planet can be identified as the magnitude-zero ‘star’ highest in the southern UK sky around 11:40pm BST. As seen from the heart of the British Isles at this time, Saturn struggles to attain a peak altitude of just 14 degrees, or three-quarters of the span of an outstretched hand held at arm’s length above the horizon.
While there is a slim chance that you can confuse Saturn with first-magnitude Antares in the constellation of Scorpius that lies 14 degrees (or one-and-a-half spans of a fist held at arm’s length) to the right of the planet, the supergiant star is the fainter of the two and has a reddish-orange hue in binoculars and small telescopes.Returning to Saturn in a small telescope, the UK night of 6—7 July is ideal for spotting the ringed planet’s largest moon, Titan. This cloud-covered world some 3,200 miles in diameter looks just like a magnitude +9 star close to its greatest westerly elongation from Saturn, some 4½ ring diameters away. Titan orbits its parent planet every 16 days, so expect to see it a similar distance to the east of Saturn on 14 July.
The waxing gibbous Moon passes close by the Solar System’s largest planet, Jupiter, on the nights of March 2nd and 3rd. Jupiter was at opposition last month, but it’s still big, bright and offers much to see in a telescope.
On Wednesday, 28 October 2015, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will take the deepest dive ever through the plume of ice, water vapour and organic molecules spraying from the south polar region of Saturn’s moon Enceladus. Scientists hope this close flyby will shed light on what’s happening beneath the moon’s icy surface. With a global ocean and likely hydrothermal activity, could Enceladus have the ingredients needed to support simple forms of life?