Plan a planet party at midnight and compare features on Jupiter and Saturn.


What's Up for June? Plan a planet party and compare Saturn and Jupiter.

Hello and welcome. I'm Jane Houston Jones from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Why not meet at midnight for a planet party, when you'll be able to see both Saturn and Jupiter in the sky at the same time? The best time to try will be a few hours after Saturn rises at sunset, and before Jupiter sets. Jupiter sets at 3 a.m. at the beginning of June and 1 a.m. by the end of the month.

To see cool details, you'll need a telescope.

Saturn reaches opposition on June 15, when Saturn, Earth and the sun are all in a straight line, with Earth in the middle.

Opposition provides the best and closest views of Saturn and several of its brightest moons.

If you just see one, that's Titan. Titan is 50% larger than our own moon. It orbits Saturn about every 16 Earth days. Our moon takes 27.3 days to orbit Earth.

Through a telescope you'll be able to compare the cloud bands on both Saturn and Jupiter.

Saturn's cloud bands are fainter than the bands of Jupiter. On Saturn you'll see delicate shades of cream and butterscotch, while Jupiter's bands are shades of white, rust and ochre.

A telescope will also show Saturn's rings tilted toward Earth about as wide as they get: 26.6 degrees.

The sunlight reflecting off the ring particles makes the rings look even brighter.

You'll also have a ring-side view of the Cassini division, discovered in 1675 by Giovanni Domenico Cassini, namesake of NASA's Cassini spacecraft.

The spacecraft has been orbiting Saturn since 2004. Cassini is on a trajectory that will eventually plunge into Saturn's atmosphere and end Cassini's mission on September 15, 2017.

NASA's Juno mission recently completed its sixth Jupiter flyby.

Through binoculars, Jupiter's four Galilean moons-Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto-are easy to see.

You can catch up on all of NASA's missions at

That's all for this month. I'm Jane Houston Jones.

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