The Moon Meets Uranus
One of the observable evening planets nowadays is Uranus. Here's how, when and where you can find and see the distant planet in the night sky this week.
The blue-green, remote planet is observable from dusk until about midnight (it sets at about 12:45 am local time) and remains a tempting target after its opposition three months ago. It is located a generous palm’s width above (or 7° to the celestial east of) the modest stars that form the V-shaped constellation of Pisces (the Fishes). Uranus is actually located within the boundary of Aries (the Ram) – and is positioned below (or to the celestial south of) that constellation’s brightest stars, Sheratan (the lower, more westerly star) and Hamal (the higher, more easterly star). The planet is also a fist’s diameter to the upper right of the ring of stars that form the head of Cetus (the Sea-Monster).
Shining at magnitude 5.8, Uranus is bright enough to see under dark sky conditions with unaided eyes and with binoculars – or through small telescopes under less-dark conditions. If you view Uranus after about 6:15 pm local time, it will be higher, in the dark, southern sky – and you’ll be looking through the least amount of Earth’s disturbing atmosphere. The main belt asteroid Vesta is near Uranus - just above the Sea-Monster’s head. Use binoculars to look for that magnitude 7.9 object.
On Friday and Saturday evenings (January 31 - February 1), the nearly half-illuminated moon will pass by Uranus in the southwestern sky. The bright moonlight will make it hard to see less bright Uranus, but you can use the moon to identify the location of Uranus. The waxing crescent moon will be positioned to the lower left (or 6 degrees to the celestial southwest) of the dim planet.
Find out where to look to find planets and stars in the sky and get notified of celestial events with the stargazing app Star Walk 2.