How to View Saturn in Thailand’s Skies Next Tuesday

Saturn, taken by the Cassini spacecraft on Jan. 2, 2010. Photo: NASA
Saturn, taken by the Cassini spacecraft on Jan. 2, 2010. Photo: NASA

BANGKOK — Saturn will move to the point in its orbit where it’s closest to Earth next Tuesday – here’s how to catch a clear view of the planet in Thai skies.

Suppharuk Karuehan of the National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand said Tuesday that Saturn will be in opposition on July 9 – that is, the planet, Earth and the sun will be arranged in a straight line. This also means that time of the year when the “Bringer of Old Age” and Earth are closest.

Look east just above the horizon starting from 7pm – hopefully you’ve got nothing blocking your view and the skies are clear. Saturn should be viewable with the naked eye within the Sagittarius constellation.

But if you want to see the planet’s rings, grab a telescope with at least 15 times magnification. Saturn should be visible throughout the night, though Suppharuk says it should be clearest from 11:53pm until 6am July 10.

“Go to the darkest location possible. Give your eyes ten minutes to adjust to the darkness without turning on any lights,” Daryl Allan Holst, a high school science teacher in Bangkok said.

Budding astronomers should go armed with a pair of binoculars, a telescope, and a star chart app such as Stellarium or Sky Map, he recommended.

Or, go to viewings to be held by the National Astronomical Research Institute, where telescopes will be provided at 410 schools nationwide, such as at Suksanari School in Thonburi area. Even better, go to official events at Chiang Mai’s Sirindhorn Observatory, and regional observatories in Nakhon Ratchasima, Songkhla, and Chachoengsao, the latter about a two hours’ drive from Bangkok.

Saturn will remain bright enough to see in the night sky throughout the second half of July.

Tip: while stargazing, listen to Gustav Holst’s “Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age” (1915), part of his “The Planets” suite. Its ominous bells and plodding drums are an apt soundtrack for the arrival of the gas giant, named after the Roman titan and god of agriculture and time.