Saturn is the most distant of the five planets easily visible to the naked eye, the other four being Mercury, Venus, Mars and Jupiter (Uranus and occasionally 4 Vesta are visible to the naked eye in very dark skies). Saturn appears to the naked eye in the night sky as a bright, yellowish point of light whose apparent magnitude is usually between +1 and 0. It takes approximately 29½ years to make a complete circuit of the ecliptic against the background constellations of the zodiac. Most people will require optical aid (large binoculars or a telescope) magnifying at least 20× to clearly resolve Saturn's rings.
While it is a rewarding target for observation for most of the time it is visible in the sky, Saturn and its rings are best seen when the planet is at or near opposition (the configuration of a planet when it is at an elongation of 180° and thus appears opposite the Sun in the sky). During the opposition of December 17, 2002, Saturn appeared at its brightest due to a favorable orientation of its rings relative to the Earth, even though Saturn was closer to the Earth and Sun in late 2003.
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Famous quotes containing the word observation:
“The Artist is he who detects and applies the law from observation of the works of Genius, whether of man or Nature. The Artisan is he who merely applies the rules which others have detected.”
—Henry David Thoreau (18171862)
“He is one of those that deserve very well, but are very awkward at putting their Talents within the Observation of such as should take Notice of them.”
—Richard Steele (16721729)
“That observation which is called knowledge of the world will be found much more frequently to make men cunning than good.”
—Samuel Johnson (17091784)