Saturn at Solar Conjunction

18nov-view-from-earth   Tuesday 18 November at 9 UT (3 am CST) the planet Saturn will have reached the astronomical coordinates that officially place it at solar conjunction. From our perspective the planet is behind the Sun, or on the opposite side of the Sun from the Earth.
   In reality it is not as much as Saturn moving behind the Sun as it is the Sun passing in front of Saturn – or so it seems. As a distant outer planet Saturn moves more slowly around the Sun than the Earth does. One year on Saturn is equal to 29.7 years (10,832 days) on Earth. So in one day Saturn would travel how much of the 360o orbit around the Sun? That would amount to approximately 0.033o each day.
saturn-sun-ani   The Sun, in its apparent motion along the ecliptic moves at the rate the Earth is moving which is 0.99o each day. So the Sun appears to zoom past Saturn while both are moving eastward. By the end of the year the Sun will have moved east of Saturn enough so that Saturn, now on the west side of the Sun, will rise before the Sun rises and be visible in the pre-dawn morning skies.
Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

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