The full Hunter’s Moon will light the way to Uranus in the early morning sky this week, and with a bit of luck, you may see a “shooting star” as you search for the celestial partner.
Uranus is not considered one of the five “naked eye” planets, which are bright enough to be seen from Earth without any visual aid. But you can actually see Uranus in the night sky without the help of a telescope or binoculars, if you have a clear and dark sky and you know where to look.
For the next few nights, Uranus will be close to the moon, which filled up on Wednesday (October 20) at 10:57 am EDT (1457 GMT). The moon will still appear fairly full, and the bright moonlight could make it difficult to spot Uranus nearby. Similarly, the full moon will eclipse the peak of the Orionid meteor shower this week. However, the proximity of the moon to the dark planet can facilitate its location.
Related: The Brightest Planets in October’s Night Sky
Uranus rises only a few minutes after moonrise and will reach its highest point in the night sky after midnight. It will be closest to the moon on Thursday (October 21) at 6:39 p.m. EDT (2239 GMT), according to the sky-watching site In-The-Sky.org. For sky watchers in the United States, the closest approximation will not be visible – your best chances of seeing Uranus with the moon will be early Thursday morning, between midnight and the onset of twilight.
If you miss it on Thursday morning, you will have other opportunities. The planet will still be close to the moon on Friday morning, and with the waning moon slightly dimmer than the night before, the reduced moonlight could even make Uranus easier to detect.
(Image credit: SkySafari)
Uranus will shine with a magnitude of 5.7, which is slightly brighter than dimmer objects that are visible to people with perfect vision and darker skies. If you live near any source of light pollution, especially in or near large cities, you will not be able to see Uranus without a telescope.
To see it, go to the darkest area possible at the darkest time of night and look for the faint teal patch.
Email Hanneke Weitering at hweitering@ or follow her at @hannekescience. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.
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