As seen on our sky’s dome, the waxing crescent moon on the night of January 6, 2014 shines close Uranus, the seventh planet outward from the sun. In other words, when you gaze at the moon tonight, you’ll be looking toward Uranus, too. Although we show Uranus on our sky chart (top of post), and although Uranus is theoretically visible to the eye, this distant world isn’t at all easy to spot – especially in the light of the moon. But, for the fun of it, we use the moon to help you envision the location of Uranus on the dome of night tonight.
Most people need a detailed sky chart and an optical aid to see Uranus, which, at best, appears as a faint starlike object to the eye. In 2014, the optimal time for watching Uranus will come in October and November.
Notice Uranus’ location on the chart below. On sky charts, the ecliptic represents the Earth’s orbital plane projected onto the constellations of the Zodiac. Since all the solar system planets revolve around the sun on nearly the same plane, you’ll always find the planets on or near the ecliptic.
Both the moon and Uranus reside in front of the constellation Pisces the Fishes this evening. After a few more days, the moon will move out of the constellation Pisces and into the constellation Aries. For the most part, Uranus will remain in front of the constellation Pisces for the rest of this year.
Look at the feature chart above and you’ll see the ecliptic just misses the constellation Cetus the Sea-monster. Annually, in late March, a fraction of the solar disk actually clips Cetus before fully returning into Pisces.
In 2014, Uranus retrogrades – goes westward – in front of backdrop stars for a total of five months, from July 22 to December 22. Midway through the the retrograde, our planet Earth in its orbit moves between the sun and Uranus, at which juncture Uranus lies opposite the sun in Earth’s sky. This is the yearly opposition of Uranus, marking the middle of the best time of this year to see it.
Uranus will reach opposition on October 7, 2014. At that time, it’ll rise in the east at sunset and set in the west at sunrise. So Uranus will be out all night long in early October, 2014. What’s more, Uranus will come closest to Earth for the year at its October 7 opposition.
Bottom line: On the evening of January 6, 2014, the waxing crescent moon pairs up with Uranus in the constellation Pisces the Fishes. You won’t see Uranus in the moon’s glare. But it’ll be fun to imagine its whereabouts. This post contains info about Uranus – best time to see it – in 2014.