Saturn Will Be Closest to Earth in May than Ever Before-Fiction!
Summary of eRumor:
A meme making the rounds on social media claims that Saturn will be closer than ever before to Earth on May 1, 2016, and it will fill much of the sky.
There’s no truth to reports that Saturn will be closer to Earth than ever before in May 2016, or that it’ll appear so large that it covers most of the sky.
Those rumors started with meme making the rounds on social media. It’s not clear where the meme originated, but it’s fairly easy to disprove.
The first claim, that Saturn will be the closest it has ever been to Earth on May 1, 2016, doesn’t check out. The distance between Saturn and the Earth constantly changes as both planets travel through space. At its closest, Saturn is 746 million miles from Earth, and at its farthest (when on the opposite sides of the sun), Earth and Saturn are about a billion miles apart, Space.com reports.
And, just under once a year, Earth overtakes Saturn’s rotation, which causes Saturn to appear to move backwards up the night sky. This is referred to as “Saturn in Opposition,” and it was taking place in spring 2016 when this rumor went viral, EarthSky reports:
When can I see Saturn in 2016? In late March and early April, you have to stay up late or wake up before dawn to see Saturn. From mid-northern latitudes, in late March 2016, it’s rising around midnight local time – that’s midway between sunset and sunrise. South of the equator, Saturn can be seen earlier.
Stay up late or get up early on the mornings of March 28, 29 and 30 to see the waning moon near Saturn, as shown on the sky chart above.
Saturn will rise about two hours earlier for each month that follows this one.
By late April 2016, Saturn will climb into our sky by around mid-evening, and by late May – as seen from around the world – you’ll see Saturn coming up at nightfall or early evening.
June and July will be especially good months in 2016 to view Saturn. The planet will be out all night long, or nearly so. The reason is that we’ll pass between Saturn and the sun on June 3.
At that time, Saturn will be opposite the sun as seen from Earth, to rise in the east at sunset, climb highest up at midnight and to set in the west at sunrise.
It’s true that you’ll be able to see Saturn in the night sky without a telescope during this time. It appears as a steady light with a golden color. However, in order to see Saturn’s rings you would need to use a telescope.
Given all that, we’re calling this one “fiction.”