Keep your eyes on the skies this month, because you just might catch a glimpse of the distant ice giant Uranus in our Solar System.
On October 19, Uranus will be at its closest point to Earth. This is known as opposition, as it will be on the opposite side of the Sun in our skies. At this position, it will be “just” 2.7 billion kilometers (1.7 billion miles) from Earth, compared to its most distant position of 3.2 billion kilometers (2 billion miles).
Around this time, Uranus might just about be visible with the naked eye in the night sky, appearing a blue-green color. With binoculars or a telescope, you should more easily be able to spot it near the constellation of Pisces in the southeast sky.
Astronomy magazine notes the planet will be especially visible because it will be so high. In fact, it will be at its highest position in the sky during opposition since February 1963. It will have a magnitude (brightness) of about 5.7.
This isn’t the only interesting thing in our night sky this month though. Around now, Mars and Venus are both visible in the pre-dawn sky, towards the eastern horizon. Again, binoculars might be useful here as the approaching light of the Sun makes it a bit difficult to see.
If planets aren’t your thing, then fear not, as we’ve also got a meteor shower this month. The Orionids will peak on October 20, which is fortunately going to be a moonless night. Looking towards the Orion constellation, you could see about 10 to 15 meteors an hour.
Remember, if you’re out and about observing, make sure to wrap up warm. You might want to use an app to track the positions of the planets, and we’d also recommend giving your eyes a good 20 minutes or so to adjust to the darkness.