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You Won't Need Both Hands And A Map To Find Uranus This Week

Ryan Ford 19 Jan 2021

With Pluto having been officially demoted to dwarf planet status, Uranus is now the second-most distant planet from Earth behind only Neptune.

Despite the fact that it's about four times larger than our planet, Uranus is so far away that it was only discovered in 1781, when William Herschel developed a telescope powerful enough to observe it.

Even 240 years later, for stargazers, the seventh planet from the Sun is one of the more difficult sights from the solar system to see. However, this week bodes particularly well for those looking to spy one of the night sky's more elusive targets.

The ideal nights for finding Uranus in the sky are January 19-21.

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For those nights, the Moon will be in its first quarter phase, meaning it will be bright but not so bright that it drowns out everything around it.

Mars will just above the Moon, and its trademark red body will make it stand out. All you'll need to do is look just below Mars to the left to find the bluish Uranus.

As a bonus, you shouldn't need to stay up late, as the Moon will set around midnight.

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You'll likely want at least a good pair of binoculars to help out, however.

Unsplash | mostafa meraji

Although Uranus's placement alongside two prominent celestial objects will make it easy to locate, it's still going to be about two billion miles away, so seeing it with the naked eye is definitely a challenge.

The viewability of celestial objects like the planets comes down to magnitude, which is a way of assigning a value to an object's brightness. Humans with perfect vision, not hobbled by light pollution, can see objects with a magnitude of up to about +6.5 — Uranus's will be about +5.7, so technically visible, but unless you have access to a telescope, binoculars are your best bet.

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Don't worry too much if you miss out on Uranus's display this week, however.

While it will be more challenging to find in the night sky, Uranus will at least remain near Mars for a few more weeks, which provides a good reference point to start from.

If you're determined to find it, you might want to try a skymap app just to confirm that Uranus is indeed what you're looking at.

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