September 29 – Uranus At Opposition

On September 29, 2012, the planet Uranus will be considered to be “close” to the planet earth. The distance separating the two planets only will be 19.1 AU (1 AU equals approximately 150 million kilometers). This makes the planet Uranus well placed for observation as it lies in the constellation Pisces well above the horizon. Uranus will be at exact opposition with the sun at 7.01 UTC (Universal Coordinated Time).

How The Opposition Occurs
The opposition of Uranus takes place when the earth comes in line between Uranus and the sun. During opposition, Uranus will rise during the sunset and set during the sunrise, just as the moon does. This means that it is only possible to view the planet during the night. Unfortunately, due to the sheer distance between the earth and Uranus, you can only view this planet using optical aids such as a telescope or quality, high-powered binoculars.
During opposition, Uranus shines at a magnitude of 5.7 with a disk diameter of 3.7 arcsecond (each arcsecond equals 1/3600 of a degree). At such a distance, you will not be bale to distinguish Uranus from other stars without the aid of a good telescope. Even so, if you are planning to view the planet at opposition, it might be best advised to do so in the company of an experienced person. Following the opposition, Uranus will be seen in the sky for four days. But on each day, it will be four minutes later than the preceding day due to the fact that it is gradually receding from view.

More On Planet Uranus
Uranus was first discovered by William Herschel on March 13, 1781. In Greek mythology, this planet was the God of the sky. The Romans named this planet Caelus. The atmosphere of Uranus is mainly composed of gases such as ammonia, helium, and hydrogen. With an axial tilt of 97.77 degrees, Uranus has an axis of rotation that is approximately parallel to the solar system polar plane. This planet is not visible to the human eye as its visibility lies in the range of +5.6 to +5.9. This falls short of the threshold of +6.5 which is necessary for visibility to be possible to the human eye.
The best time to see Uranus will be in the year 2050, when the green planet will be located in the constellation Leo. During this time, it’s perihelion, or proximity to the sun, will only be 18.23 Au (Astronomical Units) or approximately 2.73 thousand million kilometers. At this point, the planet will be at it’s brightest.

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