Thursday January 7th the position of the planet Uranus with respect to the Earth and the Sun places this ringed planet at what is called eastern quadrature. Uranus is at a 90 degree angle from the Earth as the banner graphic at the top of this page shows. Think first quarter Moon as that is a fair comparison of the relative positions. At this position Uranus follows the Sun across the sky from east to west as the Earth is rotating, meaning that Uranus rises after the Sun and sets after the Sun.
Can’t find Uranus? The 7th planet from the Sun is currently within the constellation of Pisces the Fishes and has recently completed its retrograde motion. Finding Uranus is somewhat of a challenge given that it has an average apparent magnitude of 6, putting it at the naked-eye limit of visibility. However the planet is visible with binoculars as a faint pale-bluish star and its location may be found by using the corners of the Square of Pegasus as ‘pointer stars’. With some planning and a good finder chart like those from the Sky Live web site an observer could make an observation perhaps once a week and follow the motion of the Uranus amongst some of the stars of Pisces.
This is a short piece from a video I made as part of a live musical performance called “Orbit” that I was part of in May 2011. This is a piece from the much longer tour of the solar system performance and video and shows Uranus and some of its moons as viewed from the Voyager 2 spacecraft.
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.