On Wednesday (November 9), Uranus will move opposite the sun in an astronomical arrangement called “opposition.” A distant ice giant and the seventh planet from our sun, Uranus will be visible most of the night and peak around midnight.
For skywatchers in New York, Uranus in opposition will begin at 6:33 p.m. EST (23:33 GMT) according to In the sky (opens in a new tab), when the ice giant will appear 21 degrees above the eastern horizon in the constellation Aries. (Remember: your fist at arm’s length is about 10 degrees.)
It will rise to 65 degrees on the southern horizon at 23:35 EST (04:35 GMT on November 10). Uranus in opposition will cease to be visible at 04:38 EST (09:38 GMT) Thursday, November 10 when it drops below 21 degrees on the western horizon.
Related: Night sky, November 2022: what you can see tonight [maps]
The arrangement between the two will begin around 4:23 p.m. EST (2023 GMT) becoming visible in the New York sky in the evening around 6:06 p.m. EST (2206 GMT) as the sky darkens, according to In the sky (opens in a new tab).
The seventh planet from the sun, Uranus, an ice giant composed mostly of a freezing mixture of water, ammonia and methane, the latter compound responsible for giving the planet its striking blue appearance.
At the same time Uranus reaches opposition, it will also make its closest approach to Earth, also known as its perigee. At this time, the solar system will be aligned so that Uranus and Earth are on the same side of the sun. This means the Ice Giant will be the brightest in the night sky.
Although Uranus appears slightly brighter at opposition, with a magnitude of around 5.7, it won’t appear much larger in the sky, which means it will only be visible in bright conditions. favorable observation with binoculars or a telescope as a tiny shimmering point of light.
Indeed, the ice giant is located a huge distance from our planet, with Uranus inhabiting about 1.7 billion miles (2.8 billion kilometers) from Earth at the time of opposition.
This great distance from the inner solar system and the sun at its core means that Uranus takes about 84 Earth years to complete an orbit. This means that since becoming the first planet discovered using a telescope in March 1781 by astronomer William Herschel, Uranus has made less than three solar orbits.
Following this astronomical event during which Uranus will be visible from sunset to sunrise, the planet will reach its highest point in the sky about 4 minutes earlier each following night.
This means that Uranus will gradually become less visible in the hours before dawn while remaining visible in the evening for a few months.
The giant ice planet will then be in opposition to the sun on November 13, 2023.
Editor’s note: If you take a photo of Uranus in opposition and would like to share it with Space.com readers, send your photo(s), comments, and name and location to [email protected]
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