Seventh planet Uranus reaches opposition right before Halloween
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 239 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 to help you locate the planet Uranus.
Here is a wide field finder chart for Uranus.
As a planet, Uranus is technically visible with the naked eye in true dark and moonless locations. At best, it will be around plus 5.86, the limit of most people’s vision.
Over the years, I have been trying to view the planet with the naked eye but have not succeeded.
My best advice is to locate the planet with a pair of binoculars first and then move on to view it with a small telescope.
In the telescope, Uranus appears as a small greenish-looking disk.
Here is how you might see Uranus in a large telescope.
At the present time, Uranus is an incredible, 1,751,024,019 miles away, taking light two hours and 36 minutes to get to Earth.
With light speed (670 million mph), that is a long time!
Uranus is not alone in the solar system with a series of rings around the planet. This amazing planet reveals its beauty in this image.
Learn more about the planet here.
Here’s a detailed live position of Uranus for advanced observers.
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 at 3 a.m.