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Uranus Finder Chart, 2017

Finding Uranus with AstroViewer®

Uranus Conjunctions with other Planets, 2011-2020

Uranus Through The Telescope

Pisces (Constellation Photo)

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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 describes a series of shallow, Southward-facing loops because the planet is South of the ecliptic  (by less than 1º) 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 3º.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) and Declination (latitude, measured in degrees North or South of the celestial equator) are marked around the border of the chart (the above chart will help in finding the general location of the planet throughout the period in question, however a detailed finder chart will be required to pinpoint the planet precisely - for more details, see below).

The Position of Uranus in the Night Sky, 2006 to 2019 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 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 apparent magnitude of the planet varies little during the period shown in the star chart: from +5.7 (at opposition) to +5.9 (at superior conjunction). Around all opposition dates shown on the map, the planet will be due South at local midnight in the Northern hemisphere (due North at local midnight in the Southern hemisphere).

The apparent diameter of the planet (its angular size when seen from the Earth) at opposition throughout the period covered by the star chart is 3".7 (3.7 arcseconds, where 1 arcsecond = 1/3600th of a degree).

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 0º.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.

In February 2009 Uranus reached aphelion (its furthest point from the Sun; in this case 20.1 Astronomical Units or 3 thousand million kms) and consequently was at its most poorly-placed orbital position for observation from the Earth. The situation only slowly improves and Earthbound observers will have to wait until 2050 (when the planet is in Leo) before it reaches perihelion (its closest point to the Sun, at 18.28 AU or 2.73 thousand million kms) to see the planet at its brightest and best. Despite the closeness, however, the planet's opposition magnitude will only increase by about 0.4 magnitudes to +5.3.

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).

Looking further ahead, the blue-green ice giant will continue its Northward motion along the ecliptic until it reaches its most Northerly point in Gemini in 2034, having crossed its ascending node on the ecliptic (crossing the ecliptic from South to North) in Taurus in 2029.

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

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Finding Uranus in Your Local Night Sky (General Location)

 

Where in the night sky should I look for Uranus tonight? In which direction and how high up will it be?

The location of a planet (or any other celestial body) in your local night sky depends upon several factors: the constellation in which it is positioned, your geographical latitude and longitude and the date and time at which you observe. To find a planet in the night sky at any particular date and time, we must know two things: a direction in which to look along the observer's horizon (eg. Southeast, East-Southeast) and an angle to look above the horizon (known as altitude or elevation).

Use the following Javascript program to help find Uranus in your night sky during the year:

'Mini-AstroViewer' Java applet

For additional information on the fully-functional

version of the program, see here.

Mini-AstroViewer® is an easy-to-use Java applet which shows the positions of the celestial bodies in the night sky for any location on the globe at any time of the year (Javascript must be enabled in your browser for the program to function).

To activate the program, click on the button below (the program will open in a pop-up window).

Please enable JAVATM to use the Mini-AstroViewer night sky map.

The default location is New York, USA. To select your own location and then find Uranus, refer to the 'Finding Uranus ..' box below.

An animated tutorial showing how to locate a planet in the night sky using Mini-AstroViewer® can be seen here.

  • The applet also shows the positions of the planets in their orbits, viewed from a point in space far above the Solar System (click on the tab marked 'Solar System' at the top of the applet; use the left-hand scroll bar to zoom out).

Finding Uranus in Your Own Night Sky using Mini-AstroViewer®

Sun, Moon and planet colours as they appear in AstroViewer®. The program displays the Moon in its correct phase

To set your own location, click on the 'Location' button and click on your approximate position on the pop-up world map. If you know your precise latitude and longitude, you can refine your position by pressing the left/right and up/down arrows to move the cross-hair in 1° increments (to find your latitude and longitude, visit the Heavens Above website and enter the name of your nearest town or city in the search box). Having plotted your geographical co-ordinates, click 'OK' and the night sky over your own location will appear in the window, valid for the current time, which is displayed in UT (Universal Time, equivalent to GMT). The applet will initialise displaying the current UT time according to your browser's clock and Time Zone settings (if you would prefer to have the Local Time displayed, use the fully-functional version of the program at Astroviewer.com).

The red circle represents the horizon around you; the lower half of the display represents the part of the sky you are facing. The centre of the circle is the point directly above your head (known as the zenith). The ecliptic (the path along which the Sun, Moon and planets will be found) is marked by a red dashed line, passing as it does through the zodiac constellations. The blue dashed line marks the apparent position of the celestial equator, which arcs across the sky from the due East point on the horizon to the due West point. The program plots stars down to magnitude +5.0.

The bottom scroll bar rotates the horizon view, allowing for a view in any compass direction; the left-hand scroll bar zooms the sky in or out, and the right-hand scroll bar pans up (to the zenith) or down (to the horizon) whenever the view has been zoomed.

Mini-AstroViewer demonstration (click to visit AstroViewer website)

For a detailed animation showing how to use the

Mini-AstroViewer® program, click here.

Information on a celestial body can be viewed by clicking on the object (in the case of a planet, its magnitude, distance, elongation and apparent diameter). Note that if the elongation of Uranus (its angular distance from the Sun as seen from the Earth) is less than about 20°, it will not be visible because it is too near the Sun. Remember that local twilight can affect the visibility of a particular planet, even at elongations greater than 20°, making observation difficult or even impossible. This particularly applies throughout the local summer months at higher latitudes.

To find the general location of Uranus in your Night Sky, first see if it is above the horizon at the time you are requesting. If it is visible within the circle, move the bottom scroll bar left or right to rotate the image until the planet is positioned on the vertical red line (the altitude scale). Zoom in to the area using the left-hand scroll bar where necessary (see animation opposite).

The direction of Uranus at the requested time will be indicated at the bottom (W, SW, etc). The altitude of the planet (its angle above the horizon) can be read off on the altitude scale (it is marked at 10° intervals). Hence if it is three notches up, its altitude is 30° at the displayed time (to understand how to determine a planet's altitude in the night sky, refer to the explanatory diagrams below). If Uranus' altitude is less than about 10° it will probably be difficult to see because of the dimming effect of the Earth's atmosphere and, in town and city locations, the effects of light pollution or skyglow.

If Uranus is not shown within the circle, it is below the horizon and you will have to wait until after it next rises before you can see it (provided it is not too near the Sun). To find when it next rises, click the 'hours forward' button (Forward in time button) repeatedly until the planet appears over the eastern horizon, then note down the time and direction this occurs. By clicking the 'minutes/hours forward' buttons (Forward in time button), Uranus can then be tracked across the sky for the remainder of the night (using direction and altitude) as described above.

If Uranus rises in daylight (i.e. if the Sun is already above the horizon), you will have to wait until after dusk to see it - in which case, 'fast forward' to a time shortly after sunset, then note down the time and direction.

This will provide you with the general location of the planet in your Night Sky at the time you have requested. A more detailed 'star hop' will be required to pinpoint the planet precisely - for details, see the section 'Finding Uranus from 2006 to 2018' below.

Diagram demonstrating the angular altitude of a celestial body (Copyright Martin J Powell, 2006)

 

Direction and Altitude diagram

Angular altitude (or elevation) is measured as 0º at the horizon (when an object is at the point of rising or setting), 45º when 'half way up the sky' and 90º when directly above the observer's head (at the zenith). In the above picture, the bright star has an altitude of about 60º (i.e. it is "60º high").

Using direction and altitude to find a star or planet in the night sky - in this case, the star/planet is in the South-east (SE) at an altitude of 20º.

 

 

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Uranus Conjunctions with other Planets, 2011 to 2020

Viewed from the orbiting Earth, whenever two planets appear to pass each other in the night sky (a line-of-sight effect) the event is known as a conjunction or an appulse. However, not all conjunctions will be visible from the Earth because many of them take place too close to the Sun. Furthermore, not all conjunctions will be seen from across the world; the observers' latitude will affect the altitude (angle above the horizon) at which the two planets are seen at the time of the event, and the local season will affect the sky brightness at that particular time. A flat, unobstructed horizon will normally be required to observe most of them.

The majority of conjunctions involving Uranus are not spectacular to view because the planet is never brighter than magnitude +5.3, which is barely above the naked-eye limiting magnitude. Twilight quickly renders the planet unobservable (even through binoculars), so conjunctions taking place less than about 20° from the Sun will be difficult or impossible to see. When one considers that Venus is always less than 47° from the Sun, whilst Mercury is always less than about 27° from the Sun, it follows that, whenever either of these planets are involved in conjunctions with Uranus, twilight will usually be a problem, the lighter sky diminishing the visual impact of the conjunction. Under such circumstances, binoculars will nearly always be required to glimpse Uranus as a pale-blue-green 'star'. Even when the elongation is favourable, a further problem beckons in that the glare caused by Venus in particular makes it difficult to see the much fainter planet beside it. In such instances (e.g. for the Venus-Uranus conjunction of March 9th 2020) binocular observers may find it easier to position Venus just outside the binocular field of view so that the eye can more comfortably view the distant gas giant.

Most conjunctions between Uranus and the other superior planets (MarsJupiter, Saturn and Neptune) occur at elongations of less than 90°, when Uranus is below its brightest apparent magnitude in any given apparition. During the eight-year period from 2012 to 2020, for example, all the visible conjunctions take place at elongations of less than 47°, Uranus 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 was between Uranus and 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). Uranus' next favourable conjunctions with superior planets will be with Mars in February 2017, with Jupiter in September 2037 and with Saturn in 2079(!).

Because Uranus is 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 are 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 will favour Northern hemisphere observers whilst morning conjunctions will favour Southern hemisphere observers.

Neptune, positioned to the South-west of Uranus in the constellation of Aquarius, is often considered to be Uranus' planetary 'twin'. From the viewpoint of the Earth, faster-moving Uranus 'overtook' Neptune when the planets were in Sagittarius in July 1993, at which point they were seen in conjunction. This was the first time the two planets had been in conjunction since they were discovered (Uranus in 1781, Neptune in 1846). Conjunctions between Uranus and Neptune are rare events indeed, occurring about every 172 years; the next one will take place in the year 2164.

The following table lists the conjunctions involving Uranus which take place between 2011 and 2020 at solar elongations of greater than 20°. In several cases, other planets are also in the vicinity and these are detailed. Note that, because some of the conjunctions occur in twilight, the planets involved may not appear 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 2020 (Copyright Martin J Powell, 2011/14)

Uranus conjunctions with other planets from 2011 to 2020 (note that there are 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 is positioned 0°.1 North of Uranus at the time shown. The 'Fav. Hem' column shows the Hemisphere in which the conjunction will be best observed (Northern, Southern and/or Equatorial). The expression 'Not high N Lats' indicates that observers at latitudes further North than about 50°N will find 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 are positioned at the time of the conjunction.

To find the direction in which the conjunctions will be seen on any of the dates in the table, note down the constellation in which the planets are 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. along the celestial equator) and the other is measured along the ecliptic, which is inclined at 23½° 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 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 passes during the present decade. 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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Finder Chart for Uranus, 2017

In early 2009 Uranus moved into the constellation of Pisces, a relatively faint constellation with no stars brighter than magnitude +3.6. During 2017 the planet can be found in the tail region of the Fishes, by 'star-hopping' a short distance from the stars Zeta Piscium (Greek lower-case letter 'zeta' Psc, mag. +4.9), Mu Piscium (Greek lower-case letter 'mu' Psc, mag. +4.8) or Omicron Piscium (Greek lower-case letter 'omicron' Psc, mag. +4.3). In late July and early August, the planet lies very close to the constellation's border with Aries, the Ram, which the planet will enter in 2018.

Pisces can most easily be found by looking South of the Great Square of Pegasus - four fairly bright stars forming a near-perfect square (use the Mini-Astroviewer® Javascript program above to find Pegasus and Pisces in your local night sky).

Uranus finder chart for 2017 (Copyright Martin J Powell, 2015)

 

The Path of Uranus in South-eastern Pisces during 2017, with positions marked on the first day of each month (a Southern hemisphere view can be found here). Periods when the planet is too close to the Sun to be observable are indicated by a dashed line. Ideally, searches for Uranus should be carried out on Moonless nights, i.e. in the two-week period centred on the New Moon in any given month.

Uranus reaches opposition to the Sun on October 19th 2017 (indicated on the chart by the symbol Opposition symbol) when it shines at magnitude +5.7 and measures 3".7 (3.7 arcseconds) in diameter. The planet is then 18.914 Astronomical Units (2,829 million kms or 1,758 million statute miles) from the Earth.

Much of the star field in the chart should be easily contained within a binocular field of view (which typically ranges from 5° to 9°). Stars are shown down to magnitude +8.5. Right Ascension and Declination co-ordinates are marked around the border, for cross-referencing in a star atlas. Printer-friendly (greyscale) versions of the chart are available for Northern and Southern hemisphere views.

Click here to see a 'clean' star map of the area (i.e. without planet path); observers may wish to use the 'clean' star map as an aid to plotting the planet's position on a specific night - in which case, a printable version can be found here.

Previous finder charts for Uranus can be seen for 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

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The Current Night Sky over Córdoba, Argentina  Flag of Argentina

Would you like to see your own town or city shown here?

 

Requested locations may appear on another planet page (see links below) depending upon the number of requests received by the author at any given time.

A list of the night sky locations currently displayed on this website can be seen on the main Naked-eye planets page.

The graphic shows the sky at the location indicated when this page was loaded in your browser; if several minutes have since passed, click the 'Refresh' button at the top of your browser (or press the F5 key) to see the current sky.

The Night Sky location displayed here is periodically changed by the website author.

Additional AstroViewer® Information

Mini-AstroViewer® is a lightweight version of AstroViewer®, an interactive night sky map that helps you find your way in the night sky quickly and easily. Due to its intuitive interface, it is well suited to beginners in astronomy.

The fully functional, free-to-use version can be accessed at the AstroViewer® website. It has additional features such as a Local Time display, a planet visibility chart for any selected location, a 3D Solar System map, the ability to store user-generated world locations, a 'Find Celestial Body' facility, printing and language options and greater flexibility in the night sky display (see details here).

A fully-functional version for offline use can be obtained upon the purchase of a license key, following the download and installation of a test version.

AstroViewer® is produced by Dirk Matussek.

current night sky over Córdoba

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The Naked-eye Appearance of Uranus

Planetary Movements through the Zodiac

 

Mercury

Venus

Mars

Jupiter

Saturn

Uranus

Neptune

Pluto


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Copyright © Martin J Powell  2006 - 2016


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