Uranus will reach perigee, or the point in its orbit closest to Earth overnight around 3 a.m. EST.
The mysterious seventh planet of our solar system does not attract as much attention as some of its brothers. But Uranus is a fascinating celestial body, and your chance to examine it “up close” is here.
Uranus will reach perigee, or the point in its orbit closest to Earth overnight at 3 a.m. EST. It will simultaneously hit opposition, which means the Sun and Uranus will be at opposite points in the sky from Earth’s perspective. This combination of events means that Uranus will be very bright in the night sky and will be visible in the night sky for a longer period of time, basically all night.
Of course, Uranus will still be very far from Earth: 18.69 astronomical units, or more than 1.74 billion miles, at the time of opposition, according to the skywatching site. In-The-Sky.org. In extremely dark skies devoid of light pollution from cities and the moon, you may be able to see Uranus with the naked eye as a weak spot. But the best way to see the planet is through a telescope, be it a garden or an observatory, or maybe even high-powered binoculars.
Through a telescope, you’ll probably be able to see Uranus’ blue-green hue, but not its 13 faint rings, which are angled at an extreme tilt. The planet is one of two ice giants in our system – the other is Neptune – and its composition is mostly water, methane and ammonia, according to NASA. And, yes, it’s raining diamonds there.
If you can’t get to a telescope to get an “up close” view, don’t worry. Uranus will still stay bright in the night sky for quite some time, due to the time it takes to orbit the sun (its orbital period is 84 years). And we might even get a closer look at it in the decades to come. NASA plans to develop a Uranus mission that could launch in the 2030s. So far, only the Voyager 2 spacecraft has had a close encounter with the planet, in 1986.
Until then, you’ll have to sate your curiosity about the seventh planet with a brief glimpse through a telescope in the coming days. To locate the planet, we recommend using a stargazing app like SkySafari, Sky Guide, or Night Sky.
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