During the July school holidays, the planet Saturn will be easy to spot with the naked eye after sunset.
On July 16 at 6.30pm, it will appear high in the northern sky alongside the beautiful first quarter moon. Saturn is the bright star-like object to the right of the moon and to the left is the bright star, Spica, which is 262 light years from earth. Remember, one light year is the equal to about 9.5 trillion kilometres!
On the morning of July 20 a special photograph of planet earth is going to be taken by the Cassini spacecraft that is in orbit around Saturn. For 15 minutes from 5.27am, Cassini will capture images of earth about 1.44 billion kilometres away.
Earth will appear to be about one pixel in size. It will look like a small, pale blue dot in between Saturn’s rings.
At the time of imaging, Saturn will be eclipsing the sun from Cassini’s point of view. NASA will be able to use Cassini’s highest-resolution camera without damaging sensitive instrumentation and it will be the first time earth will be photographed in natural colour.
So, as you look up at Saturn these holidays keep Cassini in your thoughts and smile as it gets ready to take a photograph of you. For more stargazing tips visit www.stargazersclubwa.com.au.