Astronomically speaking, Mars and Mercury dominated May. But now that it's June, Saturn has a chance to shine.
Our solar system's "Lord of the Rings" will be at opposition Friday, meaning it will align with Earth and the sun. This arrangement will provide amateur astronomers with one of their best opportunities this year to see the butterscotch beauty with the naked eye.
It will be visible all night, rising at the exact point in the sky opposite where the sun sets. Saturn reaches opposition about 3 a.m. Eastern time, but the best time to look for it will be after midnight your local time when it is highest in the night sky. You'll be able to see the ringed planet glow throughout the summer.
An easy way to spot Saturn is to let Mars be your guide. The red planet, which reached its own opposition earlier this week, will be a hard-to-miss bright crimson dot. Saturn is the golden orb to its left.
With a telescope, you can see the planet's cream-colored cloud bands, which are caused by ammonia crystals floating in its atmosphere.
As a bonus, the planet's famous disks will be tilted at a 26-degree angle, offering those with backyard telescopes a chance to see them. At this angle you'll catch a view of a dark gap that separates the rings in two parts called the "Cassini Division." The gap was discovered in 1675 by Giovanni Domenico Cassini, the namesake of NASA's Cassini spacecraft, which has been orbiting the planet since 2004.
After you ogle Saturn's regal rings, turn toward its moons.
"When you look at Saturn through a telescope, you can't help but see several of its four brightest moons — Rhea, Tethys, Dione, Titan — and maybe more," Linda Spilker, a planetary scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in an email. "If you just see one, that's Titan."
Titan is the largest Saturnian satellite, with a diameter that's about 50 percent larger than our own moon. "Titan is so bright that even if you have a pair of binoculars and look out to Saturn, you can see this bright point of light," Spilker said.
When you find Titan, keep its location in mind for next week because, on June 7, it will be the sight of Cassini's next flyby.