How to See Uranus at Opposition on Saturday

It'll be bigger and brighter than usual, but you'll still need a telescope.


Uranus, our neighbor just a few planets down the block, will be at its closest point to Earth in 2016 on Saturday. The icy blue planet will be brighter and closer than usual on Saturday night, but you’ll still need a telescope or a pair of binoculars for a decent view.

Saturday night also happens to be when Uranus is at opposition, an annual occurrence (well, every 369 days), where the sun and Uranus are directly opposite one another with the Earth in between.

If you look to the southeast on Saturday night, you’ll be able to find Uranus in the constellation Pisces. Uranus rises at sunset, will reach its peak around midnight local time, and then sets at sunrise. The planet will be just a few degrees away from the nearly full moon, which will make it even harder to see the dim planet with the naked eye.

Uranus will be visible close to where the red dashed line passes through the V of Pisces.

Torsten Bronger (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Because Uranus is so far away (about 1.8 billion miles), it’s not going to look like anything more than a dim star. If you really want to see the planet, you’ll need a decent telescope or a pair of binoculars.

It will still look like a star, maybe with a slight bluish tint, with lower power telescopes or binoculars, but above about 100x magnification you’ll be able to see Uranus as a pale blue disk.

No matter what you use, you won’t be able to make out any surface features (you’ll need Hubble for that).

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