How to spot Saturn’s rings through a telescope


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Release Date September 12, 2019 10:00AM (EDT) Caption Anyone who has ever peered at Saturn through a small telescope is immediately enticed by its elegant rings, which make the far-flung planet one of the most exotic-looking, opulent worlds in the solar system. The latest view of Saturn from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope captures exquisite details of the ring system?which looks like a phonograph record with grooves that represent detailed structure within the rings?and atmospheric details that once could only be captured by spacecraft visiting the distant world. One such intriguing feature is the long-lasting hexagon-shaped structure circling the planet's north pole. It is a mysterious six-sided pattern caused by a high-speed jet stream. NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft first discovered the "hexagon" during its flyby in 1981. The hexagon is so large that four Earths could fit inside its boundaries. (There is no similar structure at Saturn's south pole.) Other features, however, are not as long lasting. A large storm in the north polar region spotted by Hubble last year has disappeared. Smaller, convective storms?called super "thunderheads"?such as the one just above the center of the planet's image, also come and go.

NASA, ESA, A. Simon (GSFC)/OPAL Team

ONE of my favourite stargazing memories is the first time I viewed the rings of Saturn through a telescope. The planet, with its iconic shape, came into focus before my eyes, and I was looking at it in real time.

In reality, what I was seeing was just over an hour in the past, as light from Saturn takes over an hour to reach us on Earth.

This was a few years ago, but even to this day I feel a sense of awe when looking at the gas giants Jupiter and Saturn through binoculars or a telescope.

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