The first planet beyond ‘naked eye’ astronomy will pass within just 1° of Mars.
Although there are eight major planets in the Solar System, most of us never see Uranus or Neptune.
Undiscovered until well after the invention of the telescope, both worlds cannot be reliably spotted with the naked eye.
On rare occasions, however, one of those worlds will pass close to an easily-visible astronomical landmark, providing a perfect viewing opportunity.
This Tuesday night, Uranus will pass within just 1° of Mars, enabling clear views with technology no more complex than binoculars.
After sunset this week, Mars will shine bright and red in the southwest portion of the sky.
If you view it with binoculars, two fainter objects will appear nearby: a white-colored point and a turquoise disk.
The white object is a normal star: HIP 8588. But unlike the star, the disk won’t twinkle; that’s Uranus.
Through a more powerful tool, like a telescope, you can clearly see the physical size as larger than a single point.
The largest amateur telescopes can even make out a number of Uranus’ moons; five are bright enough to see through an 18″ telescope.
The conjunction of February 12/13 is the only one where Uranus is visible for all of 2019.
Mostly Mute Monday tells the astronomical story of an object, class, or phenomenon in visuals, images, and no more than 200 words. Talk less; smile more.Ethan Siegel is the author of Beyond the Galaxy and Treknology. You can pre-order his third book, currently in development: the Encyclopaedia Cosmologica.