Status Report

Live Slooh Broadcast of Saturn at Opposition, Apr. 28

By SpaceRef Editor
April 25, 2013
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Live Slooh Broadcast of Saturn at Opposition, Apr. 28

Slooh Space Camera will broadcast a free, real-time feed of Saturn at opposition, with the giant planet’s rings impressively angled — its best in six years. Slooh’s coverage will begin on Sunday, April 28th, starting at 6:30 p.m. PDT / 9:30 p.m. EDT / 01:30 UTC (April 29th), with observatory feeds from their world-class observatory site in the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa. Viewers can watch live on their PC/Mac or by downloading the free Slooh iPad app in the iTunes store and touching the broadcast icon.

Slooh will have an intriguing panel of experts throughout the event, including Bob Berman, author of numerous astronomy books and contributing editor and monthly columnist for Astronomy magazine, and Slooh engineer Paul Cox, who will be controlling the Slooh telescopes robotically from the UK.

“Saturn is widely regarded as the most beautiful planet in the known universe,” said Bob Berman, “and this is the day that it is largest and hence potentially clearest not just for all of 2013, but for the past half dozen years, thanks to the greatly improved viewing tilt of its famous rings. The famous inky-black gap separating its broad white ‘B’ ring from its narrower ‘A’ ring, called the Cassini Division, should be striking.”

Moreover, a creepy mystery that’s been imaged by the orbiting Cassini spacecraft is driving observers to view Saturn. “Surrounding the Saturn north pole, which is now angled toward us better than has been seen for the past two decades, lies a bizarre hexagon, each of whose six sides is larger than our entire planet Earth,” says Bob Berman. “The origin of this long-lived feature is utterly mysterious, and although its location at the very ‘top” of Saturn makes it impossible to see from Earth through any telescope including Hubble, thanks to the sideways viewpoint we always have, it has given Saturn’s north pole a new notoriety. No doubt, some viewers will ‘tune in’ to gaze at Saturn close-up and in true color on this day of its closest approach, merely because of that baffling feature.”

Saturn’s opposition occurs on the night of April 27-28. This is when Earth stands mostly perfectly in line between Saturn and the Sun. It is when Saturn is brightest (at magnitude +0.3), closely approximating famous “first magnitude” stars like Betelgeuse. It is also the date when Saturn is out all night long, and also when the shadow cast by the body of that planet angles straight back so that it darkens neither the east nor the west side of the rings.

Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun and second largest, with a radius of about nine times the planet Earth. Saturn’s most pronounced features are its rings — made up of mostly water ice — which are thought to be only typically 30 feet (10 meters) thick. More than 60 moons are known to orbit this ringed gas-giant, some of which are especially intriguing — including Titan. Titan is the second-largest moon in our solar system behind Jupiter’s Ganymede and is bigger than the planet Mercury. Titan has a nitrogen-rich atmosphere that may have been similar to Earth’s long ago.

The Cassini spacecraft has been orbiting Saturn since 2004 and continues to explore the planet with its mission being extended to 2017. By mid-2009, Cassini had returned more than 200,000 images.

To see the rings of Saturn during opposition, astronomy hobbyists in North America should point their telescope halfway up the southern sky at around midnight. Though technically in the constellation of Libra, Saturn will be left of Virgo’s bright blue star Spica and will outshine it. Slooh iPad users can book a mission to Saturn directly in their sky chart, commanding a Slooh Space Camera to image the planet that night.

Patrick Paolucci
+1 877-427-5664 x3

SpaceRef staff editor.