The photo voltaic system’s outermost planet, Neptune, reaches opposition at the moment — this is how one can catch a glimpse of the distant gasoline large.
Planet Neptune reached opposition at the moment (Sept. 14) at about 5 a.m. EDT (0900 GMT), when Earth handed straight between the solar and Neptune, in accordance to 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. As a results of this cosmic alignment, Neptune will seem larger and brighter in the sky than at every other time of the yr (although you’ll nonetheless want a pair of binoculars or a small telescope to see it.)
During opposition, Neptune rises in the east as the solar units in the west, providing skywatchers the greatest views after 9 p.m. native time. However, the planet might be seen and particularly spectacular all through most of the evening tonight, in entrance of the constellation Aquarius, reaching its highest level in the evening 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 yr. The planet made its closest strategy to Earth about 20 hours earlier than opposition. Nevertheless, as the eighth planet from the solar, Neptune’s huge distance means it’s by no means seen to the unaided eye — irrespective of how carefully it orbits Earth.
“This world is about five times fainter than the dimmest star you can see on a moonless night under dark skies,” in accordance to EarthSky.org. “You’ll need binoculars or a telescope for Neptune, plus a detailed sky chart.”
To discover 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 eye alone on a darkish evening — with out the mild from the moon. You can use this information from The Old Farmer’s Almanac to decide when the moon rises and units in your space, and plan when chances are you’ll get the greatest alternative to view the planet.
Given that Neptune is so faint (even at opposition), we advocate utilizing an excellent sky chart to assist determine the distant planet and its neighboring landmarks in the constellation Aquarius. And when you could have the option to glimpse the planet in an excellent set of binoculars, you’ll most certainly have extra luck with a telescope at 200 magnification, in accordance to EarthSky.org.
If evening sky viewing situations are dangerous tonight, nonetheless, don’t fret! You’ll have extra possibilities to observe Neptune amongst the stars of Aquarius all through September.
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