The photo voltaic system’s outermost planet, Neptune, reaches opposition at the moment — here is how one can catch a glimpse of the distant gasoline big.
Planet Neptune reached opposition at the moment (Sept. 14) at about 5 a.m. EDT (0900 GMT), when Earth handed instantly between the solar and Neptune, in keeping with EarthSky.org. Opposition happens when two astronomical objects — on this case, the solar and Neptune — are on reverse sides of the sky as seen from Earth. Because of this cosmic alignment, Neptune will seem greater and brighter within the sky than at every other time of the 12 months (although you’ll nonetheless want a pair of binoculars or a small telescope to see it.)
Throughout opposition, Neptune rises within the east because the solar units within the west, providing skywatchers the most effective views after 9 p.m. native time. Nevertheless, the planet might be seen and particularly spectacular all through a lot of the night time tonight, in entrance of the constellation Aquarius, reaching its highest level within the night time sky round midnight native time.
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Yesterday (Sept. 13), Neptune additionally handed perigee, or the closest level to Earth in its orbit, at a distance of two.7 billion miles (4.3 billion kilometers), making it seem its brightest all 12 months. The planet made its closest method to Earth about 20 hours earlier than opposition. However, because the eighth planet from the solar, Neptune’s huge distance means it’s by no means seen to the unaided eye — irrespective of how intently it orbits Earth.
“This world is about 5 occasions fainter than the dimmest star you’ll be able to see on a moonless night time beneath darkish skies,” in keeping with EarthSky.org. “You’ll want binoculars or a telescope for Neptune, plus an in depth sky chart.”
To seek out Neptune, you’ll be able to look to the left of the moon and seek for the very shut by star Phi Aquarii, which is faint, however simply seen to the attention alone on a darkish night time — with out the sunshine from the moon. You should use this information from The Outdated Farmer’s Almanac to find out when the moon rises and units in your space, and plan when it’s possible you’ll get the most effective alternative to view the planet.
On condition that Neptune is so faint (even at opposition), we suggest utilizing a great sky chart to assist establish the distant planet and its neighboring landmarks within the constellation Aquarius. And whilst you could possibly glimpse the planet in a great set of binoculars, you’ll most probably have extra luck with a telescope at 200 magnification, in keeping with EarthSky.org.
If night time sky viewing situations are dangerous tonight, nevertheless, don’t be concerned! You’ll have extra possibilities to watch Neptune among the many stars of Aquarius all through September.
Observe Samantha Mathewson @Sam_Ashley13. Observe us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Fb.