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Planet Uranus is at its best for Arizona viewing right now

This is an image of the planet Uranus taken by the spacecraft Voyager 2 on Jan. 14, 1986 from a distance of approximately 7.8 milllion miles. (NASA/JPL Photo)

In ancient times, there were only five major planets, not including Earth.

The classical planets are Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, which were observed by many civilizations around the globe.

It was not until March 13, 1781, that a new planet was added to this very select list of objects.

The credit for this discovery goes to astronomer William Herschel, who had stalked the skies for years with his small telescope and landed on this now famous planet by accident.

Back some 238 years in history, the seventh planet from the sun opened up a new era in astronomy by expanding the size of our known solar system by literally billions of miles!

Uranus sits out in the solar system, some 1.750 billion miles from us and takes some 84 years, to make one circuit or orbit around the Sun.

Think of it this way: Uranus goes once around the sun in an average lifetime, if you think of that as 84 years.

After the discovery, Herschel had thought it proper to name the planet after King George III of England – Georgium Sidus. This name was quickly removed, as planets and many other objects in the night sky are to be named after mythological beings or other things.

The name Uranus was proposed as the father of the night sky and the husband of Mother Earth, Gaia.

That name has remained and now Uranus is a major planet of our solar system.

Uranus has some 27 moons and is actually easy to spot in a pair of binoculars, being just at the limit of naked eye visibility.

As we enter the last days of October, Uranus comes to opposition on the night of Oct. 28 and will be visible with no moon in the sky for the next few days.

Here is a basic finder chart for Uranus.

Here is a more detailed live tracker for finding the planet Uranus, for telescopic observers.

Uranus is very far from us – it takes light which travels some 670 million mph over 2.5 hours just to get there.

To learn more about Uranus, visit this interesting link.

Uranus will appear as a blue-green colored disk in a telescope and just finding it in our Arizona skies is a great achievement for you!

To print your own monthly star chart, click here.

To view satellites/dates/times of passage, click here.

Listen to the Dr. Sky Show on KTAR News 92.3 FM every Saturday morning at 3 a.m.

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