Uranus Is Coming Really Close To Earth, So Get Your Binoculars Ready

Photo: João Vitor/ Flick Creative Commons.
Ever since everyone had eclipse fever earlier this year, there seems to be a little more attention paid to stuff happening overhead. CNET reports that this Thursday, Uranus will be in opposition, putting it directly opposite from the sun and closer to Earth than any other time of year. That may not sound like a huge deal for the seventh planet from the sun, but experts say that in some places, you won't even need any special equipment (though it'll certainly help) to see the blue-green dot in the sky.
"It's visible all night long and its blue-green color is unmistakable," Jane Houston Jones of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory told CNET. "It may be bright enough to see with your naked eye — and for sure in binoculars."
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The easiest way to find the planet is to have an app like SkyView handy, but you don't even need that if you're looking to catch a glimpse. National Geographic says that beginners should look for the constellation Pisces, which is 60 degrees above the horizon while facing south. From there, Uranus will be the bluest point among the fainter stars in Pisces. The magazine explains that a pair of binoculars or a simple backyard telescope will yield better views, but the planet's color — emphasized by the sun's light reflecting off of Uranus' ice caps — will definitely stand out.
October 19 will be the brightest Uranus will shine all year, but it'll stay pretty visible through the end of the month, too. Astronomy adds that this is highest Uranus has appeared in opposition since the '60s, so while it's not a once-in-a-lifetime event, it's much more visible than it's been for a long time. The pros at Astronomy say that 1 a.m. local time is the best time to scope it out, so staying up late will snag stargazers better views.
Uranus may be the butt of jokes and not have the excitement of the eclipse, but for anyone looking for a little show in the sky should keep their eyes out for something blue.
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