Have you ever seen Uranus? (See also my former online guide to this fascinating ice giant.) If not, then you can’t fail to miss it on the night of Sunday, 22 November (weather permitting) since the planet lies just 1.5 degrees — or three lunar diameters — from the 11-day-old waxing gibbous Moon from 7—9 GMT in the British Isles. Uranus and the Moon are at their highest in the UK sky to the south around 9pm, residing in the same field of view of a typical binocular throughout the night.Uranus and the Moon are so close on the early evening of 22 November that one merely has to position the Moon in the lower portion of a typical binocular field of view and you are assured of seeing the distant planet at the same time! Uranus will appear star-like in binoculars owing to its vast distance.
On Sunday night, Uranus lies 1,789 million miles (2,879 million kilometres) from Earth, or 19¼ times further away from the Sun than our planet. Consequently, even though Uranus is four times larger than the Earth, it appears as a miniscule 3.7 arcsecond-wide blue-green disc that requires a telescope magnification exceeding 500x to make it appear as large as the Moon to the unaided eye. So, if you see this fascinating juxtaposition in your binocular tonight, reflect on the fact that Uranus is 8000 times further away than the Moon!
Inside the magazine
You can find out more about this month’s lunar and planetary peregrinations in the November edition of Astronomy Now in addition to a full guide to the night sky.
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