The Sky Tonight Update: Saturn at Opposition
This June 27th, the ringed planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. It will be brighter than any other time of the year and will be visible all night long. This is the best time to view and photograph Saturn and its moons. A medium-sized or larger telescope will allow you to see Saturn’s rings and a few of its brightest moons.
This optimal positioning occurs when Saturn is almost directly opposite the Sun in the sky. Since the Sun reaches its greatest distance below the horizon at midnight, the point opposite to it is highest in the sky at the same time.
At around the same time that Saturn passes opposition, it also makes its closest approach to the Earth – termed its perigee – making it appear at its brightest and largest.
This happens because when Saturn lies opposite the Sun in the sky, the solar system is lined up so that Saturn, the Earth and the Sun form a straight line with the Earth in the middle, on the same side of the Sun as Saturn.