Look up at Uranus! The ice giant is set to make a rare appearance TONIGHT as it hangs between the moon and Mars
- The ice giant makes a rare appearance after sundown on January 20
- To see Uranus, find Mars then scan slowly toward the crescent Moon
- You might need binoculars but it should appear as a faint blue disk
- Mercury comes into view the second two weeks of January, according to NASA
Uranus is going to be on view for the world to see tonight.
NASA reports the ice giant will be on view January 20 a few hours after sundown.
The seventh planet from the Sun shines at the edge of naked-eye visibility, especially in areas with light pollution, so it’s notoriously hard to view.
But stargazers with a telescope or binoculars should be able to spot it hanging in the night sky between the moon and Mars.
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Uranus will be visible from Earth as a faint bluish disk between the Moon and Mars after sundown on January 2020
‘That evening, find the crescent Moon and the Red Planet in the couple of hours after it gets dark,’ advises NASA’s What’s Up skywatching guide.
Mars will stand out in the night sky with an orange, reddish tint near the moon, reports Axel Diaz, a Solar System Ambassador for NASA.
‘People say you can’t find the planet Uranus—it’s very hard to find, it’s very faint, it’s very small,’ says Diaz.
‘The best way to find it is to look at the moon. Look at the moon and look at Mars.’
Wednesday also sees a first quarter moon that was already well above the horizon at sunset.
On the Moon’s northern hemisphere, craters such as Aristotle’s, Atlas, and Hercules should be easy to pick out.
And tonight, Pisces will be visible near the boarder it shares with Cetus and Aries constellations.
Some 1.82 billion miles from us, Uranus has only been visited by a single Earth spacecraft so far, NASA’s Voyager 2, in 1986.
That might not be such a bad thing: A 2018 report from Oxford University confirmed that hydrogen sulfide gas swirling around its upper atmosphere give Uranus a fetid rotten-egg stench.
‘If an unfortunate human were ever to descend through Uranus’ clouds, they would be met with very unpleasant and odiferous conditions,’ astronomer Patrick Irwin warned, ‘
What’s worse, NASA says the magnetic bubble surrounding Uranus is funneling its noxious atmosphere out into space.
The atmospheric loss is due to the planet’s twisted magnetic field that causes the magnetosphere to wobble ‘like a poorly-thrown football,’ the agency said in a statement last spring.
This results in parts of Uranus’ atmosphere leaking out in charged bubbles of plasma, called plasmoids, which pinch off from the magnetic field as it’s moved around by the Sun.
Scientists have determined that the plasmoid around Uranus measures about 127,000 miles by 250,000 miles and it has pulled between 15 to 55 percent of Uranus’ atmosphere out from the planet.
The seventh planet from the Sun shines at the edge of naked-eye visibility, especially in areas with light pollution, so it’s notoriously hard to view. But stargazers with a telescope or binoculars should be able to spot it hanging in the night sky between the moon and Mars
For a less odiferous bit of astronomy, NASA also indicated Mercury will come into view in the last two weeks of January.
Mercury has very little atmosphere and wouldn’t have much smell.
You’ll need an unobstructed view to the west to see the planet, as it’ll appear just a few degrees above the horizon after sunset, beginning in the middle of the month.
‘This little planet orbits much closer to the Sun than Earth, meaning it also goes around the Sun much faster, completing its ‘year’ in about a quarter of the time it takes Earth to go around once,’ according to the agency.
‘That’s why we have a chance to view Mercury in the sky every three months or so, as it appears to dart back and forth from one side of the Sun to the other.’