If you’ve got a good pair of binoculars, a telescope, or possibly super powerful eyes, then now is a great time to catch a glimpse of the second-furthest planet in our Solar System – Uranus.
That’s right, on October 24, this ice giant reached a point known as opposition, when it’s directly in line with us away from the Sun. This not only means it’s particularly close, but also that it’s very bright, making it more visible than usual.
“Since Uranus will appear directly opposite the Sun in Earth's sky, Uranus will rise as the Sun sets and will be visible all night,” noted Space.com. “The gas giant planet will be above the horizon all night long in most locations.”
According to National Geographic, it is shining at magnitude 5.7, which is “near the limit of what the unaided human eye can see.” Your best chance to see it will be looking from a particularly dark location, but even then it’ll be tough.
If you want to guarantee seeing it appear near the Moon at night, then your best bet is using binoculars or a telescope. And that’s still impressive!
“Uranus is theoretically visible to the naked eye under very good observing conditions,” Gemma Lavender, editor for All About Space magazine, told IFLScience. “However, I’d definitely say it is much more easy to view using binoculars.”
As we head towards the end of the year, Uranus will start to dim. By March 2019, you’ll need a telescope to see it. So if you’ve ever wanted to catch a glimpse of this ice giant towards the edge of the Solar System, now’s your chance.
Uranus is also super interesting – the planet rotates on its side compared to the rest of the planets in the Solar System, probably because of a collision 4 billion years ago. The planet also has a weird moon (among others) in orbit, Triton, that may have been captured from elsewhere in the Solar System.
Earlier this year, scientists discovered that Uranus smells exactly how you would expect it to. Crack all the jokes you want though, Uranus doesn’t care. It’s happily waving to us from afar, oblivious to the toilet humor taking place billions of kilometers away.