The Hubble Space Telescope has captured stunning new views of Mars and Saturn in June and July. Hubble captured Mars on 18 July when the red planet was at a distance of 59.4 million kilometres (36.9 million miles) from Earth. The image clearly shows the on-going global dust storm that is obscuring the surface. Mars reaches opposition, lined up with Earth and the Sun, on July 27 and will reach its point of closest approach to Earth on July 31, providing the best view of the red planet since 2003. Saturn was imaged on June 6 when the ringed world was about 2.2 billion kilometres (1.4 billion miles) from Earth. Saturn reached opposition on 27 June.
Skywatchers in the UK looking to the south-southeast shortly before midnight on Friday 9 June can see the rising full Moon just 2½ degrees above Saturn, the pair fitting comfortably in the same field of view of binoculars and telescopes magnifying less than 20×. Saturn is closest to the Earth for this year on 15 June, so here is our quick observing guide to the ringed planet at its best.
A thrilling ride is about to begin for NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. Engineers have been pumping up the probe’s orbit around Saturn this year to increase its tilt with respect to the planet’s equator and rings. And on 30 November, following a gravitational nudge from Saturn’s moon Titan, Cassini will enter the first phase of the mission’s dramatic endgame.