Watch Saturns four moons sweep across its disk today

February 24th, 2009 - 2:42 pm ICT by ANI  

National Geographic

Washington, Feb 24 (ANI): Today, sky-watchers would be able to see Titan, Mimas, Dione, and Enceladus gliding together across Saturns disk around the same time, using medium to large telescopes.

According to a report in National Geographic News, astronomers will be pointing the Hubble Space Telescope in Saturns direction to capture the event.

It was brought to our attention by an amateur astronomer in the Philippines, and it sounded like a good opportunity for us, said Keith Noll, of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland.

Its unusual to get that many moons on the disk at the same time, he added.

Even with small telescopes, sky-watchers will be able to see the largest moon, Titan, begin transiting, or crossing in front of, Saturns northern hemisphere. People with at least mid-size telescopes will be able to see the smaller moons as well.

All four moons and their shadows will be visible at 9:25 a.m. ET. This means viewers on the Pacific Coast of North Americaalong with those in Alaska, Hawaii, Australia, and East Asiawill have the best views.

Naked-eye observers in northern latitudes will see Saturn as a bright golden star in the constellation Leo in the predawn skies today.

As luck would have it, the green comet Lulin will be making its closest approach to Earth at the same time, and the comet will be visible in very dark skies just below Saturn.

According to Noll, Hubble likely wont capture Lulin in the same frame as the transits, because the space telescope will be zooming in to get great detail of Saturn and its moons.

But observers on Earth might be able to see the comet and Saturn dotted with moons in the same telescope view, he said.

In addition to capturing what promises to be a spectacular image, Hubble scientists think the data could reveal new scientific information.

People are particularly interested in using Saturn as a backlight to study Titan, Noll said.

As the large moon passes in front of the planet, astronomers will be able to examine Titans atmosphere from a unique perspective.

Likewise, the viewing angles that make the quadruple transit visible from Earth create interesting conditions for studying Saturns rings, Noll said. (ANI)

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