Stargazers Ready...Saturn and the Moon Will Make a Dazzling Close Encounter Tonight

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Part of our solar system, along with other stars of the Milky Way galaxy, as seen over Lone Rock in Skull Valley, Utah. This view was captured facing approximately south at about 1 a.m. on July 15. NASA/Bill Dunford

On Tuesday night, stargazers in the U.S. looking up at the night sky will be treated to a spectacular "parade" of bright planets that will be visible with telescopes, binoculars and even the naked eye.

At around 10 p.m. EDT, just above the western horizon at an altitude of 10 degrees, Venus will appear dazzlingly bright, writes Joe Rao from Space.com. Jupiter will also be clearly visible, about three times higher than Venus in the southwestern sky, although it will be six times less bright than that planet.

In addition, Mars will appear brighter over the next week than it has since 2003, as the Red Planet nears its closest approach to Earth in 15 years. On July 31, the two planets will come within "just" 35.8 million miles of each other.

"In fact, you will be hard-pressed to miss it," Dean Regas, an astronomer from the Cincinnati Observatory, previously told Newsweek. "To the naked eye, it will look like a suspiciously bright, steadily shining, star. Only Venus is a brighter starlike object."

Furthermore, a vast dust storm that is encircling the entire surface of Mars will mean the planet will appear even brighter than it normally does at its current distance. This is because the dust reflects more light than the surface, according to Rao. It will also appear more orange-yellow, compared with its usual reddish-orange color.

Finally, and perhaps most intriguingly, the moon will come within just four-moon diameters of Saturn, according to Deborah Byrd, editor-in-chief of EarthSky.org. In fact, the two bodies will easily fit within the optical field of binoculars or a telescope at low magnification, providing stargazers with a tantalizing viewing opportunity.

Look to the south-southeastern sky around one-quarter up from the horizon soon after sunset, or low to the southwest between midnight and dawn, to spot Saturn and the moon together, Rao suggests. If poor weather clouds the sky Tuesday night, there will be another chance to see a close encounter between the pair on the night of August 20.

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Part of our solar system, along with other stars of the Milky Way galaxy, as seen over Lone Rock in Skull Valley, Utah. This view was captured facing approximately south at about 1 a.m. on July 15. NASA/Bill Dunford

Aside from its close encounter with the moon, there will be nothing particularly distinctive about Saturn, (although those with a 30-power telescope will be able to see the planet's magnificent rings). As usual, it will appear like a star with a slightly yellowish glow. Meanwhile, the July 24 moon is a waxing gibbous moon—meaning it will appear more than half-illuminated but less than full.

On the night of July 27, Asia, Africa, Europe, South America, Oceania and Antarctica will witness the longest lunar eclipse of this century, which will last one hour and 43 minutes. Unfortunately, people in North America will be unable to see it, although live streams will be available at the Virtual Telescope Project and timeanddate.com.

Stargazers Ready...Saturn and the Moon Will Make a Dazzling Close Encounter Tonight | Tech & Science