June 21, 2024

Starwatch puzzle

The moon passes Saturn this week. The chart shows the view looking south-east from London at 04:00 BST on the morning of 31 May 2024.

As the sky begins to fill with dawn twilight, Earth’s satellite and the orbiting planet will rise to an easily observable height. By now, the moon is 22.6 days old, and has reached its last quarter phase with 45.6% of its visible surface illuminated. It just puts it in its waning sickle phase.

Less and less of its visible surface will be illuminated over the next week, rising later and later in the morning until it is consumed by the dawn light. It will then reappear a few days later as a waxing crescent moon in the evening sky.

Saturn is currently 1,465 m kilometers from Earth, or about one ligature and 21.5 light minutes away. Its color is distinctly off-white, bordering on yellow, reflecting the color of its clouds. The conjunction is much easier to see from the southern hemisphere. From Sydney, for example, the pairing will appear overnight in a completely dark sky.

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