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Uranus Conjunctions with other Planets, 2011-2018

Pisces (Constellation Photo)

Where is Uranus now? This star map shows the path of Uranus through Aquarius and Pisces from June 2006 to January 2019. The 'First Point of Aries' is the point where the ecliptic crosses the celestial equator; it is the 'zero point' from which planetary longitudes are measured

Star map showing the path of Uranus against the background stars of Aquarius and Pisces from June 2006 to January 2019. Positions are marked for each opposition date and selectively for Eastern and Western stationary points. In this diagram, the marked stationary points are paired for each loop, e.g. the '2009 Jul' and '2009 Dec' stationary points occur in the same loop, the planet passing opposition in between, i.e. at '2009 Sep 17' (the planet will always be moving retrograde - East to West - when it passes opposition). Uranus described a series of shallow, Southward-facing loops because the planet was South of the ecliptic  (by less than 1) throughout the period shown on the chart (the individual loops are not discernible in this chart because of the scale of the map; instead, each loop appears as a thickened line). Note that because of the distance of Uranus from the Earth, the angular width of each loop (about 3.9 from Eastern to Western stationary points) is such that the loops have only a narrow gap between them.

The star map applies to observers in the Northern hemisphere (i.e. North is up); for the Southern hemisphere view, click here. The faintest stars shown on the map have an apparent magnitude of about +4.9. Printer-friendly versions of this chart are available for Northern and Southern hemisphere views. Astronomical co-ordinates of Right Ascension (longitude, measured Eastwards in hrs:mins from the First Point of Aries) and Declination (latitude, measured in degrees North or South of the celestial equator) are marked around the border of the chart.

The Position of Uranus in the Night Sky:

2006 to 2018

by Martin J. Powell

From June 2006 to March 2009, Uranus was positioned in Aquarius, the Water Carrier, where it had been since early 2002. From March 2009, Uranus began its passage through one of the zodiac's faintest constellations - Pisces, the Fishes. During the 2012-13 period the planet made a few brief exits from the zodiac as it traversed the North-western corner of Cetus, the Whale, before continuing on its way through Pisces. Uranus entered Aries, the Ram, in April 2018, having thus far spent a period of 8 years and 8 months in Pisces.

Uranus and its system of rings imaged by NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft in 1986 (Image: NASA)

Uranus imaged by NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft during its January 1986 flyby. The rings encircling the planet, discovered in 1977, are too faint to be seen with Earthbound telescopes (Image: NASA)

Uranus reaches opposition to the Sun (when it is closest to the Earth and brightest in the sky for the year) every 369.6 days on average, i.e. about 4 days later in each successive year. The opposition magnitude across the period of the star map is +5.7. In any given year the apparent magnitude of the planet varies little, reducing by about 0.2 magnitudes from opposition to superior conjunction.

The apparent diameter of the planet (its angular size when seen from the Earth) at opposition throughout the period was from 3".9 (3.9 arcseconds, where 1 arcsecond = 1/3600th of a degree) in 2006, reducing to 3".7 in 2018.

In December 2007 Uranus passed its Northern hemisphere's Vernal equinox point in its orbit, at which time the planet's rings were positioned edge-on to the Earth.

In February 2009 Uranus reached aphelion (its furthest point from the Sun) at 20.1 Astronomical Units (3,000 million kms or 1.87 thousand million miles) and consequently was at its most poorly-placed orbital position for observation from the Earth.

In 2010, Uranus reached opposition on the same day as Jupiter (September 21st) with just five hours between their opposition times; Uranus was then   positioned 0.8 to the North of the Giant Planet. The two planets also underwent a triple conjunction from 2010-11, passing each other in the sky on three occasions. An animation showing the two planets' motions during this period can be seen here.

From 2011-12 Uranus crossed the celestial equator in Pisces on three occasions: in April 2011 (heading North-eastwards and moving direct), then in October 2011 (moving retrograde and temporarily heading South-westwards) and again in January 2012 (resuming North-easterly motion, moving direct). For the first time in over 41 years, the planet then became visible for a longer period of time in the Northern hemisphere than in the Southern hemisphere (prior to that, it crossed the celestial equator - heading South-eastwards along the ecliptic - in Virgo in 1969).

 [Terms in yellow italics are explained in greater detail in an associated article describing planetary movements in the night sky.]

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Uranus Conjunctions with other Planets, 2011 to 2018

Between 2011 and 2018 there were thirteen planetary conjunctions involving Uranus. In all but one of these events the solar elongation was less than 47, the blue-green planet being close to the naked-eye limiting magnitude in all cases.

Uranus' most interesting conjunctions take place when the planet is within a few months of opposition, at which times they involve the much brighter planets Mars, Jupiter or Saturn; these events are however very rare. The most recent conjunction of note which involved these planets was with Jupiter on January 2nd 2011 - the last of three conjunctions which took place between the two planets during the 2010-11 observing season (for more details, see here).

Because Uranus was positioned in central and Eastern Pisces during the period in question, i.e. within a 10 declination band to the North of the celestial equator, conjunctions during this time were favourable to Northern and Southern hemispheres in roughly equal measure. Owing to the angle that the ecliptic presents to the local horizon along this section of the zodiac, evening conjunctions favoured Northern hemisphere observers whilst morning conjunctions favoured Southern hemisphere observers.

The following table lists the conjunctions involving Uranus which took place between 2011 and 2018 at solar elongations of greater than 20. In several cases, other planets were also in the vicinity and these are detailed. Note that, because some of the conjunctions occurred in twilight, the planets involved may not have appeared as bright as their listed magnitude suggests.

Although any given conjunction takes place at a particular instant in time, it is worth pointing out that, because of the planets' relatively slow daily motions, such events are interesting to observe for several days both before and after the actual conjunction date.

 

Table listing Uranus conjunctions with other planets from 2011 to 2018 (Copyright Martin J Powell, 2011/14)

Uranus conjunctions with other planets from 2011 to 2018 (note that there were no observable planetary conjunctions involving Uranus during 2016) The column headed 'UT' is the Universal Time (equivalent to GMT) of the conjunction (in hrs : mins). The separation (column 'Sep') is the angular distance between the two planets, measured relative to Uranus, e.g. on 2015 Mar 4, Venus was positioned 0.1 North of Uranus at the time shown. The 'Fav. Hem' column shows the Hemisphere in which the conjunction was best observed (Northern, Southern and/or Equatorial). The expression 'Not high N Lats' indicates that observers at latitudes further North than about 50N would have found the conjunction difficult or impossible to observe because of low altitude and/or bright twilight.

In the 'When Visible' column, a distinction is made between Dawn/Morning visibility and Dusk/Evening visibility; the terms Dawn/Dusk refer specifically to the twilight period before sunrise/after sunset, whilst the terms Evening/Morning refer to the period after darkness falls/before twilight begins (some conjunctions take place in darkness, others do not, depending upon latitude). The 'Con' column shows the constellation in which the planets were positioned at the time of the conjunction.

To find the direction in which the conjunctions were seen on any of the dates in the table, note down the constellation in which the planets were located ('Con' column) on the required date and find the constellation's rising direction (for Dawn/Morning apparitions) or setting direction (for Dusk/Evening apparitions) for your particular latitude in the Rise-Set direction table.

There are in fact two methods of defining a planetary conjunction date: one is measured in Right Ascension (i.e. perpendicular to the celestial equator) and the other is measured along the ecliptic, which is inclined at 23 to the Earth's equatorial plane (this is due to the tilt of the Earth's axis in space). An animation showing how conjunction dates are determined by each method can be found on the aforementioned Jupiter-Uranus 2010-11 triple conjunction page. Although conjunction dates measured along the ecliptic are technically more accurate (separations between planets can be significantly closer) the Right Ascension method is the more commonly used, and it is the one which is adopted here.

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 Photograph showing the constellations of Pisces, Aries, Triangulum and the Great Square of Pegasus. Click for full-size photo (Copyright Martin J Powell, 2005)

Pisces, Aries and the Great Square of Pegasus

A photograph showing the region of the night sky through which Uranus passed during the period of the star chart. Stars can be seen down to about magnitude +6.5 (move your pointer over the image - or click here - to see an annotated version of the photograph and click on the thumbnail to see the full-size picture)

 

 

 

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The Naked-eye Appearance of Uranus

Planetary Movements through the Zodiac

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Venus

Mars

Jupiter

Saturn

Uranus

Neptune

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Credits


Copyright  Martin J Powell  2006-2017


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