Uranus at Opposition (19th October)
The blue-green planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. It will be brighter than any other time of the year and will be visible all night long. It will certainly be the best time of the year to view Uranus (so long as we have clear skies!). Due to its distance, it will only appear as a tiny blue-green dot in all but the most powerful telescopes.
Here are 5 interesting facts to consider if you get chance to look at the planet...
- Uranus turns on its axis once every 17 hours, 14 minutes.The planet rotates in a retrograde direction, opposite to the way Earth and most other planets turn
- Uranus makes one trip around the Sun every 84 Earth years. During some parts of its orbit, one or the other of its poles points directly at the Sun and get about 42 years of direct sunlight. The rest of the time they are in darkness
- Uranus is often referred to as an “ice giant” planet. Like the other gas giants, it has a hydrogen upper layer, which has helium mixed in. Below that is an icy mantle, which surrounds a rock and ice core. The upper atmosphere is made of water, ammonia and the methane ice crystals that give the planet its pale blue colour
- Uranus hits the coldest temperatures of any planet. With minimum atmospheric temperature of -224°C, Uranus is nearly coldest planet in the solar system. While Neptune doesn’t get as cold as Uranus it is on average colder. The upper atmosphere of Uranus is covered by a methane haze which hides the storms that take place in the cloud decks
Only one spacecraft has flown by Uranus. In 1986, the Voyager 2 spacecraft swept past the planet at a distance of 81,500 km. It returned the first close-up images of the planet, its moons, and rings.