Saturn Is Closest to Earth on Sunday: See It Live Online

Saturn will be at its brightest on Sunday, April 28, 2013.
This sky map shows the location of Saturn in the southeastern night sky at 10 p.m. on April 27, 2013, to observers at mid-northern latitudes. (Image credit: Starry Night Software)

The best view of Saturn available to Earth dwellers in six years should be on Sunday (April 28), with the planet reaching its opposition point, when Earth lies directly between it and the sun.

You can watch the celestial show live online via the Slooh Space Camera, which will be broadcasting a feed from its telescopes in Spain's Canary Islands. You can watch the Saturn webcast live on beginning at 9:30 p.m. EDT on Sunday (0130 GMT Monday).

The giant planet should put on a spectacular show, with its famous icy rings tilted at a perfect angle for viewing. During Saturn's close approach to Earth, the planet will be exceptionally bright, reaching about the same brightness as famous stars such as Betelgeuse. The ringed giant should be visible all night long on April 27 and 28, and its shadow will fall so that neither the east nor west side of the rings is darkened.

This diagram from a NASA video shows the alignment of Saturn, the Earth and the sun on April 28, 2013, when Saturn will be at opposition, making the ringed planet at its best and brightest of the year. (Image credit: NASA/JPL)

"Saturn is widely regarded as the most beautiful planet in the known universe," Bob Berman, contributing editor and monthly columnist for Astronomy magazine, said in a statement. "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."

Berman will appear as a commentator on the Slooh webcast, along with Slooh engineer Paul Cox, who will be controlling the Slooh telescopes robotically from the United Kingdom, and other experts.

Saturn's position will also give skywatchers a chance to view a mysterious storm brewing on the planet. [Stunning Photos of Saturn's Weird Vortex Storms]

"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," Berman said. "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."

To view the planet with your naked eye or through a telescope, stargazers in North America should look halfway up the southern sky around midnight. Saturn will shine to the left of the bright blue star Spica in the constellation Virgo.

You can also follow the Slooh webcast live via the Slooh Space Camera website.

Editor's Note: If you snap an amazing photo of Saturn and its rings and would like to share it with for a story or image gallery, please send comments and images to managing editor Tariq Malik at

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Clara Moskowitz
Assistant Managing Editor

Clara Moskowitz is a science and space writer who joined the team in 2008 and served as Assistant Managing Editor from 2011 to 2013. Clara has a bachelor's degree in astronomy and physics from Wesleyan University, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She covers everything from astronomy to human spaceflight and once aced a NASTAR suborbital spaceflight training program for space missions. Clara is currently Associate Editor of Scientific American. To see her latest project is, follow Clara on Twitter.