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.
If the excitement of the Juno spacecraft’s arrival at Jupiter has prompted you to seek out the solar system’s largest planet, then the 5-day-old cresent Moon acts as a convenient celestial guide during the evening of Saturday, 9 July when it makes a close pass of the gas giant. Here’s our guide to where and when to see this beautiful celestial pairing.
Neptune reaches opposition on 10 September 2019 having returned to Aquarius, the constellation in which it was discovered in 1846. We show you how to locate the outermost planet using binoculars, a task made easier this month due to Neptune’s close passage to naked-eye star phi (φ) Aquarii on 6 September.