Skywatchers in the UK looking to the south-southwest at dusk on Monday, 17 September can see the waxing gibbous Moon just 1¾ degrees to the upper left of Saturn, the pair fitting comfortably in the same field of view of binoculars and small telescopes magnifying 25× or less. This is also a good night for spotting Titan, Saturn’s largest and brightest moon.
If clear skies persist, observers in the UK can view four naked-eye planets between now and the end of the month. Brightest planet Venus is visible low in the west some 45 minutes after sunset, while the waxing Moon is your celestial pointer to Jupiter, Saturn and Mars between 21 and 28 July at midnight.
Skywatchers in the UK and Western Europe should cast their gaze low in the southern sky late into the evening of Thursday 6 July to see the 12-day-old waxing gibbous Moon in conjunction with ringed planet Saturn. The pair are separated by just 3½ degrees, nicely framed in a typical 10×50 binocular. For telescope users, the night of 6—7 July is also good for spotting Saturn’s bright moons. We show you what to look for and where.
In the small UK hours of Sunday 14 May, the rising 17-day-old Moon in the southeast lies just 2.4 degrees to the upper-left of Saturn, meaning that the pair will comfortably fit in the same field of view of a typical 10×50 binocular. The ringed planet is now about a month from opposition, so now’s the time to hone your observing skills.
A new model developed by University of Rochester researchers could offer an explanation as to how cracks on icy moons, such as Pluto’s Charon, formed. Until now, it was thought that the cracks were the result of geodynamical processes, such as plate tectonics, but computer simulations suggest that a close encounter with another body might have been the cause.
New research suggests that some of Saturn’s icy moons, as well as its famous rings, might be modern adornments. Their dramatic birth may have taken place a mere 100 million years ago. This would date the formation of the major moons of Saturn, with the exception of more distant Titan and Iapetus, to the relatively recent Cretaceous Period — the era of the dinosaurs.
Similar in many ways, Saturn’s moons Tethys and Rhea (left and right, respectively) even share a discoverer: Giovanni Cassini, namesake of the NASA spacecraft that captured this view. Although somewhat different in size, Rhea (949 miles across) and Tethys (660 miles) are both composed largely of ices and are generally thought to be geologically inactive today.
Three of Saturn’s moons — Tethys, Enceladus and Mimas — are captured in this group photo from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. Tethys appears above the rings, while Enceladus sits just below centre and Mimas hangs below and to the left of Enceladus. This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from narrowly above the ring plane.