Thursday, December 25, 2008

Saturn's Christmas Tilt

If you looked into a telescope early this morning you might have been greeted by Saturn's Christmas surprise.

Once every 14-15 years Saturn turns its characteristic rings edge-on to Earth as it orbits the sun. This phenomenon, known as ring-plane crossing, gives the planet a most unique appearance. Its rings seem to disappear when viewed through a telescope.

Hopefully some of you were able to spot Saturn's Christmas Day exhibition because the next time that the planet lets loose and gets visibly naked won't be until 2038.

(photo of 1995 Saturn tilt from www.hubblesite.org)