The early hours of Nov. 13 are going to bring an ideal opportunity to see the seventh planet without a telescope, giving sky-watchers a chance to check out Uranus as it lines up perfectly with Earth.
One of two ice giants and the second-farthest planet from Earth, Uranus is 1.7 billion miles away from the Earth. It’s highly visible due to a phenomenon known as opposition, when Earth is placed between the planet and the sun, making the planet appear brighter and more visible in the night sky.
Discovered in 1781, Uranus was named after the primordial Greek god of the cosmos, presumably by astronomers with more maturity than most of us. It’s the only planet to be named after a Greek god instead of a Roman one and it’s one of the more mysterious planets in the solar system, having only been visited by a spacecraft once.
The planet takes 84 Earth years to orbit the sun and has an axial tilt so severe it’s almost sideways in its orbit. The blue-green planet will appear in the sky between Jupiter and the Pleiades star cluster. The best time to catch a glimpse will be shortly after midnight.
Those hoping to catch a glimpse of Uranus will need dark skies, something helped by the new moon also occurring overnight. For those with binoculars or telescopes it will be easier to see and you may even be able to catch a glimpse of two of the planets’ 27 moons, Oberon and Ariel.