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Saturn close to Earth; Jones Beach viewing event planned

This weekend, Saturn will give skywatchers one of

This weekend, Saturn will give skywatchers one of the signature planet-viewing opportunities of 2014. The planet is seen here as photographed by the Amateur Observers' Society of New York member Dave Barnett. Credit: Dave Barnett

Saturn will give skywatchers a prime planet-viewing opportunity of 2014 this weekend, and an area astronomy group plans to pounce.

The ringed planet will line up in opposition, which means the sun, Earth and Saturn are directly aligned with the Earth in between. Saturn will rise in the eastern sky as the sun sets, and will stay visible all night, setting to the west right as the sun rises.

The planet won't be hard to find, said Susan Rose, the president of the Amateur Observers' Society of New York, which is holding a viewing program on Friday from 8 to 10 p.m. at the Theodore Roosevelt Nature Center at Jones Beach, weather permitting.

Rose said anyone with a telescope or binoculars should get a great view of Saturn.

"Even with a reasonable pairs of binoculars, you should be able to see Saturn's rings," Rose said. "Recreational binoculars that people have for watching birds is all you need."

There is a $4 event fee payable to the New York State Parks Department. To reserve a spot, call 516-780-3295 or 516-785-3614.

Saturn will be joined in the night sky all weekend by Jupiter and Mars. Jupiter will be visible at sunset, and sets itself at 12:23 a.m. Mars will be visible nearly all night, sliding beyond our horizon at 4:14 a.m. 

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