Saturn at Opposition

Saturn is at opposition on 15 April 2012 in the constellation of Virgo. With a magnitude of 0.2, it lies north east of Virgo’s brightest star, Spica (magnitude 0.98).

The north pole of the planet (and hence the north face of the rings) is iinclined by ~13.8 degrees towards the Earth. Small telescopes should be able to detect Cassini’s division in each ansae.

Small telescopes should also be able to detect what appears to be a single broad dark band in the planet’s northern hemisphere. This spans the latitudes of the classical North Equatorial and North Temperate belts.

Higher resolution observations reveal a lighter zone within this band at the approximate latitude of last year’s great northern hemisphere storm. Higher resolution observations have also detected some residual storm activity at this latitude.

A brighter bluish coloured zone is visible further north.

Recently on 12 April an image taken by Anthony Wesley showed a bright spot at an approximate latitude of 55 degrees N and an approximate System 3 longitude of 312 degrees. Further observations are required of this feature.

Mike Foulkes. Saturn Section director.

The British Astronomical Association supports amateur astronomers around the UK and the rest of the world. Find out more about the BAA or join us.