Looking Up: From Dusk To Dawn

Oct 22, 2018

Tilt-A-Whirld... Uranus is seen in this false-color view from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope from August 2003. The brightness of the planet's faint rings and dark moons has been enhanced for visibility.
Credit NASA/Erich Karkoschka (Univ. Arizona) / nasa.gov

This week on Looking Up Hal gives us the low down on a planet that will be up all night long. 

Regular listeners of Looking Up will recall that I really like the planet Uranus. Uranus is cool in many ways – it’s the first planet discovered in modern times, as it is too dim for ancient folks to properly map it. It also is tipped way over on its axis, with a single year lasting 84 Earth years, Uranus has 42 years when only the northern hemisphere gets sunlight, followed by 42 years with only the south getting some sun. So, you want to plan your Uranus vacations carefully.

And tomorrow, October 23rd, Uranus is going to reach what astronomers call “opposition.” That means that Uranus will basically rise with the Sun setting and will set the next morning when the Sun comes up. That means it’s right there in the Colorado sky all night long, begging to be looked at. And this opposition is very special, in that Uranus will be in a position, due to the mathematics of orbital mechanics, to give us our best views of the green gas giant in 50 years!

When you look at Uranus in a telescope, you see something truly amazing. You see the green disk of the planet. Unlike stars, which appear only as tiny points of light, Uranus presents an actual disk. You can actually see the body of the planet, roughly 1.7 billion miles away. So come to a star party and marvel at magnificent Uranus.

If you’d like to take a closer look at Uranus, or any of the other wonderful and amazing things in the sky, please visit csastro.org for a link to information on our monthly meetings and our free public star parties.