Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly labeled Uranus as a gas giant. It is considered an ice giant although, according to NASA, it does not have a true surface and is mostly swirling fluids. The atmosphere is mostly hydrogen and helium, with a small amount of methane and traces of water and ammonia.
Stargazers, including those without binoculars or a telescope, have a chance to see one of our solar system's outermost planets for the next few days: Uranus. It's barely visible to the naked eye if you know where to look.
The ice giant, which is the planet seventh furthest from the sun, will appear in the sky between 11:30 p.m. and 4 a.m., according to Joe Rao of Space.com. It will be located within the constellation Aries, about 12 degrees left of Mars.
"It's already one-third up from the eastern horizon by 11:30 p.m. local daylight time and will reach its highest point — more than two-thirds up from the southern horizon — just before 4 a.m.," Rao writes.
The key is that the moon is not lighting up the sky right now, so Uranus is not obscured in the dark skies as long as it's clear outside. People on the West Coast currently dealing with wildfire smoke may be out of luck.
It's easier to see, of course, with binoculars or a telescope. Rao says a telescope with at least a 3/4-inch aperture should show a tiny, blue-green disc.
Facts about Uranus
- Uranus is known as the “sideways planet” because it rotates on its side.
- Uranus was discovered in 1781 by William Herschel.
- Uranus was the first planet found using a telescope.
- Uranus is an Ice Giant planet and nearly four times larger than Earth.
- Uranus has 27 known moons, most of which are named after literary characters.
- Like Saturn, Jupiter and Neptune, Uranus is a ringed planet.
- One Uranus day is 17 Earth hours.
- One Uranus year is 84 Earth years.
- Voyager 2 is the only spacecraft that has visited Uranus.