Saturn kisses the Moon

screenshot from Stellarium

On Sunday night (July 26, 2015), there will be a nice pairing of Saturn and the Waxing Gibbous Moon. Saturn is moderately bright, and can be hard to find if you don't know where to look, but this weekend the Moon will provide a nice landmark. Saturn will be 2° south of the Moon. They will look so close to each other that if you hold your hand out at arms length, you could almost cover both of them with the tip of your little finger. (Here is a great resource for figuring out distances across the sky.)

Of course, the Moon and Saturn are not actually close to each other. Saturn is about a billion km from Earth while the Moon is about 380,000 km away. I love these kinds of conjunctions because they remind me that we are in a constantly moving solar system. What we can see in the night sky depends on where we are in relationship to everything else. It's easy to think of the night sky as a flat disk spinning overhead. These events remind us that we live in a vast solar system with countless other objects. When everything lines up just right, we get a pretty show.

By the way, did you notice the Milky Way stretching across the sky in the screenshot? You probably won't be able to see that because of light pollution. Many cities are starting to take measures to reduce light pollution. If you have the chance to support that, please do. I was lucky to live in a rural area with little light at night, and the view of our galaxy was spectacular. For more info on light pollution and what you can do about it, check out the International Dark-Sky Association.

Be well and don't forget to look up.