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Gas giant viewing


If you look to the stars in July, you’ll see two beautiful gas giant planets shining at their brilliant best for observing. It’s Jupiter and Saturn of course! This month, both will be at what astronomers refer to as “opposition”.

“Opposition” is a word that astronomers often use. A planet is said to be in “opposition” when it is on the opposite side of Earth to the Sun. Opposition happens once a year and it means that the planet is as close as it gets to Earth for the year which makes for great viewing.

When and where to look: Both planets can be seen with the naked eye from 7.30 pm. Jupiter is the brightest star-like object in the east and Saturn is just below on the horizon. Jupiter is at opposition on 14 July. Saturn comes into opposition a week later on 21 July.

For telescopes
What’s the best time of night to use your telescope? As Earth spins on its axis, it appears that all objects in the night sky rise in the east and set in the west. Just like our Sun rises in the east and sets in the west, so does the Moon, planets, stars and galaxies.

The best time to view objects through a telescope is when the object you want to look at is high in the night sky. When you’re looking directly upward, you’re looking through the least amount of Earth’s atmosphere. You’ll find you get a much better view. If you look at the object when it’s low on the horizon, you’re looking through a thicker slice of the atmosphere and the object won’t appear as crisp through the eyepiece. Try it out for yourself to see the difference.

More stargazing: Find out what else is in the night sky at www.astrotourismwa.com.au/stargazing