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We’ll all get a great view of Uranus tonight, and we won’t even need a telescope

Updated Oct 18th, 2017 11:39AM EDT
how to spot uranus
Image: NASA Goddard

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Uranus is a pretty awe-inspiring sight. It’s big, pale, and packed with gas, but we rarely get a chance to actually see it without the use of pricey instruments. Tonight is another story, and thanks to the planet’s positioning in relation to our Sun, everyone should be able to get a pretty clear glimpse of it… if that’s something you’re into.

Tonight, as the calendar flips from October 18th to the 19th, Uranus will be in opposition to the Sun, meaning that it’ll be on the opposite side of the Earth in relation to our star. That positioning will bathe Uranus in light, and it should be just enough to make the distant planet visible to the naked eye.

Tonight will be especially good for viewing Uranus thanks to the new moon, which won’t competing for attention in the same area of the sky. That should help in spotting the planet, which will still be just a faint speck, even if you don’t have any kind of viewing equipment. That said, even something like a pair of binoculars will be of great assistance in finding Uranus in the inky black of space.

Its hard-to-spot nature isn’t surprising, especially when you consider that Uranus is something like 1.8 billion miles away from Earth. Even still, it’s big enough — and the Sun’s light is strong enough — to make it visible from this distance. Future exploratory missions of the planet have been proposed, and NASA even has tentative plans to probe the planet in order to learn more about the gasses and elements that make it tick. However, those trips wouldn’t be possible until at least 2030.

If you’re hoping to spot Uranus tonight, you’re probably going to need a star chart to figure out exactly where to look. There are a few options available that will be super useful after the sun sets. So get out there, gaze skyward, and enjoy Uranus for all its worth.

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