Uranus will reach perigee, or the closest point in its orbit to Earth overnight at approximately 3 a.m. EST.
The mysterious seventh planet of our solar system doesn’t get nearly as much attention as some of its brethren. But Uranus is a fascinating celestial body, and your chance to get a “close” look at it is here.
Uranus will reach perigee, or the closest point in its orbit to Earth overnight at 3 a.m. EST. It will simultaneously reach opposition, which means the sun and Uranus will be at opposite points in the sky from the vantage point of Earth. This combination of events means Uranus will be extra bright in the night sky, and it will be visible in the night sky for a longer period of time — essentially all night long.
Of course, Uranus will still be very far away from Earth: 18.69 astronomical units, or more than 1.74 billion miles, at the time of opposition, according to skywatching site In-The-Sky.org. In extremely dark skies that are devoid of light pollution from both cities and the moon, you might be able to see Uranus with the naked eye as a faint dot. But the best way to view the planet is through a telescope, whether a backyard one or one at an observatory, or perhaps even high-powered binoculars.
Through a telescope, you’ll likely be able to see Uranus’ blue-green hue, but not its 13 faint rings, which are oriented on an extreme tilt. The planet is one of the two ice giants in our system — the other is Neptune — and its composition is primarily water, methane, and ammonia, per NASA. And, yes, it does rain diamonds there.
If you can’t get to a telescope to get an “up close” view, don’t worry. Uranus will still remain bright in the night sky for some time, due to how long it takes to revolve around the sun (its orbital period is 84 years). And we might even get a closer look in the coming decades. NASA is looking into developing a Uranus mission that could launch in the 2030s. As of now, only the Voyager 2 spacecraft has made a close encounter with the planet, way back in 1986.
Till then, you’ll have to satiate 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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