Uranus at Opposition

Click on graphic to see full size

Click on graphic to see full size.

   While just saying this, “Uranus is at opposition” would certainly be the butt of many jokes, this seventh planet from the Sun, a gas giant nonetheless, has reached the point in its orbit around the Sun where it is at what is called opposition. Picture the arrangement of the Sun, Earth, and the full Moon, and this is the arrangement for an outer planet such as Uranus when it is at opposition. At opposition the outer planet rises at local sunset time and sets at local sunrise time and so is visible the entire length of night.
Click on graphic for help in finding Uranus.

Click on graphic for help in finding Uranus.

   Uranus has a magnitude that is just under 6 meaning that is at the edge of naked-eye visibility. However to see Uranus without any optical assistance would require extremely dark skies and some seriously good eyesight. With binoculars and telescopes this 7th planet from the Sun is visible as a pale greenish dot. Over time it is possible to follow its relatively slow motion as it moves past the stars in the background. Currently Uranus is within the boundaries of Picses the Fishes and below the ‘Square of Pegasus’. If you can find the ‘square’ use Alpheratz and Algenib as pointers to aim your binoculars or telescope toward Uranus. Uranus takes approximately 83 Earth years to orbit the Sun so each year it moves between 4-5 degrees, or about 0.01 degree each day. Not exactly jettin’ along! The point is that it will essentially stay in the same location relative to the surrounding brighter stars for next few months allowing for many observations of Uranus.

   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

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