Saturn Opposition on 15 April 2012 - Brightest, Closest - India

On 15th April 2012 at 11.56 p.m. Planet Saturn would be at Opposition to Sun i.e. it will be directly opposite to Sun from our viewpoint on Earth. In other words during course its journey around Sun Planet Earth will have a Faceoff with Planet Saturn as it would leave behind its neighbor in the celestial race. Due to opposition it will be closest, biggest & brightest it can get for next two years. 

Further due to opposition Saturn can be seen all through night. If one can see he/she would notice as Sun Sets in the West Saturn will rise in the East. As Sunrises in the East Saturn Sets in West.

The Next “Opposition of Saturn” will occur on 28 April, 2013 whereas the last time it was Opposition was on 4th April, 2011. 

Observation Astronomical Telescopes – Invitation to Schools/ Summer Camp Organizers : continuing its efforts society is happy to announce SATURN OBSERVATION CAMPAIGN INDIA 2012 which aims to Create Awareness about Saturn.  Society as a part of this Campaign (15th April to 17th October 2012) likes to conduct Observations at various places in the city/state with the help of its Astronomical telescopes. Society invites schools/Organizers of Summer Camps and other organizations at to write to us  with a request to host

What is Opposition? What is Saturn Opposition ? 
 A planet is at opposition when it is directly opposite the Sun from our viewpoint on Earth The result is that the object is fully illuminated by the sun and appears disk-like. Importantly during opposition the planet in question would be at its closest approach and thus would appear more big and brighter than usual. And although we say that a planet is at opposition for only one day, nevertheless for visual purposes it is almost as good for viewing for a couple of weeks before and after opposition. Saturn oppositions occur every one year and two weeks (378.1 days). The last opposition of Saturn was 4th April, 2011 and next will be April 28, 2013.

How to Locate Saturn through Naked Eye? At what Time/Direction?
People can spot the Saturn with naked eye after sunset. Half hour after Sunset looking towards the sky opposite direction to sunset, in the evening one can spot Planet Saturn between East and South East direction.

Whereas at midnight one can see close to Zenith i.e. above his head while in the morning it can be spotted between West and South West Direction.

You said Saturn will be Close ? How Close will Saturn be to earth ?
Because of Phenomena of Opposition Planet Saturn would be brightest and closest it can get to earth on 15th April, 2012 it will be at 8.720 AU = 1304 million Km. This close encounter is a consequence of the orbits the Earth and Saturn take around the Sun. The Minimum Distance from Saturn to Earth is 1195 Million km whereas Maximum Distance is 1658 Million Km.

How will Saturn appear?
Saturn would appear as bright non-twinkling star like object for naked eye.  However when seen from Telescope it would appear Biggest it can get in year 2012. Importantly one can appreciate its finest features along with magnificent rings if seen through telescope.

How long would be this bright/Close? Why do you say the brightness will decrease as days pass on? What do you mean by magnitude? 

Till end of April 2012 Saturn will maintain its brightness shinning at 0.8 Magnitude.  From 1st May – 10th June it will shine at 0.9 Magnitude. 11th June to 8th July at 1 Magnitude. 9th July to 4th August at 1.1 mag. 5th August to 6th Sept at 1.2 mag. And becoming even fainter from 7th Sept till two weeks before year ends it will shine at 1.3 magnitude.

Hence as days pass distance between Earth & Saturn will decrease effecting visibility of Saturn.

Note : In astronomy more the Negative value of Magnitude more bright the object is said to be. Healthy Human eye can see up to 6 Magnitude in clear dark skies.


How can we differentiate a Star from Planet in the sky?  Everything in Sky looks like Stars? How to locate Planets amongst them?
To differentiate a Star from Planet it’s important to remember that as seen from earth though planets shine, they don’t twinkle/blink unlike stars.  This is because planets merely reflect the sunlight whereas Stars radiate the light they produce.

What is that Bright Star like object near Saturn? 
The bright star beside Saturn is Spica the 15th Brightest Star in our sky. Spica (α Vir, α Virginis, Alpha Virginis) also known as Chitra nakshatra in Indian Mythology, al-simāk al-a‘zal in Arabic.  Spica found in the constellation of Virgo is 15th brightest star in the nighttime sky. It is located at 260 light years away from us. Spica is a close binary Star (set of two stars) whose components orbit about each other every four days.
After spotting  Saturn one can also spot Spica which interestingly can be found near Saturn in the sky.

What will happen on 14th August 2012?  Why do you say Planet Mars will meet Saturn on 14th August 2012?
Presently in the evening sky Mars can be spotted far above Saturn after Sunset. However if one observes the red planet everyday he/she would notice that its inching close to Saturn i.e. if one observes the sky everyday till 15th August, 2012 one would notice that both these planets are inching close to each other in our skies.

Planet during course of their journey around Sun orbit at different rates and at different distances. However this celestial journey of planets, when observed from Earth they appear to come close or move away making an interesting experience for observers.