The photo voltaic system’s outermost planet, Neptune, reaches opposition immediately — this is how one can catch a glimpse of the distant fuel large.
Planet Neptune reached opposition immediately (Sept. 14) at about 5 a.m. EDT (0900 GMT), when Earth handed instantly between the solar and Neptune, in line 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 some other time of the yr (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 one of the best views after 9 p.m. native time. Nonetheless, the planet will probably be seen and particularly spectacular all through a lot of the evening tonight, in entrance of the constellation Aquarius, reaching its highest level within the evening sky round midnight native time.
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 yr. The planet made its closest method to Earth about 20 hours earlier than opposition. Nonetheless, because the eighth planet from the solar, Neptune’s huge distance means it’s by no means seen to the unaided eye — regardless of how carefully it orbits Earth.
“This world is about 5 occasions fainter than the dimmest star you possibly can see on a moonless evening below darkish skies,” in line with EarthSky.org. “You’ll want binoculars or a telescope for Neptune, plus an in depth sky chart.”
To search out Neptune, you possibly can 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 evening — with out the sunshine from the moon. You need to use this information from The Outdated Farmer’s Almanac to find out when the moon rises and units in your space, and plan when it’s possible you’ll get one of the best alternative to view the planet.
Provided that Neptune is so faint (even at opposition), we suggest utilizing an excellent sky chart to assist determine the distant planet and its neighboring landmarks within the constellation Aquarius. And when you could possibly glimpse the planet in an excellent set of binoculars, you’ll most certainly have extra luck with a telescope at 200 magnification, in line with EarthSky.org.
If evening sky viewing situations are dangerous tonight, nonetheless, don’t fret! You’ll have extra probabilities 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.