Use just binoculars to find the planet with the ‘rude’ name!

January 6, 2011 | By | Add a Comment
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For as long as I have been presenting planetarium sessions, saying the name of one of the outer most planets ‘Uranus’ has never failed to illicit giggles from (generally) small boys in the audience. The giggles tend to get louder when you point out that the blue-green colour of Uranus is from methane gas in the upper atmosphere.

Wide angle Jupiter Moon finder chart for Monday 10 January 2011. Chart prepared for 8 pm AEST. Add one hour to this time if your location is following 'Summer Time'.

There aren’t many people who can say they have seen Uranus for themselves in spite of its large size (you could fit approximately 50 Earths inside it by volume), and the fact that it is (in theory) bright enough to see at certain times of the year with the unaided eye from a dark sky site. This coming Monday provides an ideal opportunity with the Crescent Moon and Jupiter being close enough to act as celestial signposts of sorts.

Jupiter and Uranus finder chart for Monday 10 January 2011.

Start by looking above the Western horizon once the sky is relatively dark and find the Crescent Moon. Look above and to the left of the Moon for a bright star – which is really the planet Jupiter. If you hold your binoculars steady enough, you will be able to resolve Jupiter into having a tiny disc. Either side of Jupiter (at around 8pm AEST) will be two tiny stars. They are really Jupiter’s largest moons.

Then use the bottom finder chart to locate Uranus. In binoculars, it will appear as a tiny blue-green star. In a amateur sized telescope, you will just be able to resolve Uranus as having a tiny disc.

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