Astronomy Essentials

Uranus at opposition November 9, 2022

Chart with constellations and planets.
This chart shows the constellations and planets on the night Uranus is at opposition. Image via stellarium.org.

Earth will sweep between the sun and Uranus on November 9, 2022, placing the distant planet opposite the sun in our sky.

Uranus at opposition

When and where to watch in 2022: Uranus emerges in the east before sunrise in March 2022 and is visible as a naked eye object in a dark sky by people with good eyesight. It can easily be seen in good binoculars or a telescope in the morning sky through October. By the time of its November 9 opposition, Uranus is rising in the east at sunset and is visible all night. Uranus remains in the evening sky through March of 2023 and then is possiblly visible at dusk in April.
Opposition for Uranus will fall at 23 UTC on November 9, 2022.
Note: Opposition marks the middle of the best time of year to see an outer planet. Uranus reaches a yearly maximum in brightness at or near opposition. From mid-October to December 1, Uranus will be at its brightest and shining at +5.6 magnitude so it is visible to the unaided eye. Think of us on Earth, sweeping between the sun and Uranus in our smaller, faster orbit. Around the same time as Uranus reaches opposition, it is also making its closest approach to Earth.

Simple diagram of orbits of Earth and a superior planet.
Opposition happens when Earth flies between an outer planet, like Jupiter, and the sun. Illustration via Heavens-Above.

Quick facts about Uranus at opposition

  • Uranus is in front of the constellation Aries the Ram.
  • The 7th planet shines at its brightest for 2022, at magnitude +5.6.
  • Neptune is at its least distance from Earth for 2022, 155 light-minutes from Earth.
  • Through a telescope, Uranus appears as a tiny, greenish disk 3.77 arcseconds across. Look for up to four moons of Uranus as well.

  • Read more about opposition

    For precise sun and Uranus rising times at your location:

    Old Farmer’s Almanac (U.S. and Canada)

    Timeanddate.com (worldwide).

    Stellarium (online planetarium program)

    How often is Uranus at opposition?

    Uranus is the seventh planet from our sun. A year on Uranus is 84.4 Earth-years long. Because Uranus’s orbit around the sun is so gigantic, and because Earth whips around the sun so quickly in comparison, Uranus’s opposition date falls about 4 days later each year.

    2022 Uranus opposition – November 9
    2023 Uranus opposition – November 13
    2024 Uranus opposition – November 16
    2025 Uranus opposition – November 21

    Uranus events in 2022 and 2023

    August 24, 2022: Uranus begins retrograde motion
    November 9, 2022: Uranus at opposition
    January 22, 2023: Uranus ends retrograde motion
    May 9, 2023: Uranus at solar conjunction
    August 28, 2023: Uranus begins retrograde motion
    November 13, 2023: Uranus at opposition

    Featureless bluish ball on black background.
    Uranus as seen by Voyager 2 on January 14, 1986. Image via NASA/ JPL-Caltech.

    Earth and Uranus

    Our planet Earth swings between the sun and Uranus on November 9, 2022, placing us squarely in the middle of the best time of year to see this outer planet. Why? Because in early November 2022, Uranus is opposite the sun in our sky. It rises in the east as the sun sets in the west. November 9, 2022 is when Uranus reaches its yearly opposition.

    Because Uranus is opposite the sun in early November 2022, it climbs highest up for the night at midnight (midway between sunset and sunrise). So Uranus stays out all night long. Also, around the time of opposition, Earth’s motion brings Uranus closest to Earth for 2022. The planet shines at its brightest in our sky. How bright is that? Not very bright.

    The fact is, even at its brightest, Uranus is still quite faint. It’s barely perceptible as a dim speck of light to the unaided eye, even under dark skies. At a magnitude +5.6, Uranus shines no more brilliantly than the sky’s faintest visible stars. Given a dark sky free of light pollution, you might see Uranus with the eye alone. But you’ll need to have a good finder chart to know right where to look for this distant world in front of the rather faint constellation Aries.

    Distance to Uranus

    At its closest point to Earth, Uranus is still twice as far away from us as its next-door neighbor, Saturn. At opposition, Uranus will be just shy of 19 astronomical units (AU) away from Earth and 20 AU from the sun. (By the way, one astronomical unit equals the distance of Earth from the sun). Visit Heavens-Above to find out the present distance of Uranus and the other solar system planets.

    Other Uranus observing opportunities

    While opposition is mathematically the best time to view Uranus due to its nearness and brightness, another great opportunity is when the dim planet is near a brighter, closer planet. For example, when Venus or Mars pass close to distant Uranus as seen from our point of view, we get an easy guidepost to point us to the gas giant.

    Red dot of Mars to the right and small white dot of Uranus top left, each labeled.
    View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Mohd Nazam Anuar in Johor Baharu, Malaysia, beautifully captured gas giant Uranus and our neighbor Mars on January 20, 2021, despite a nearby moon. Thank you, Mohd!

    In 2022, Venus passes a little more than 2 degrees from Uranus before sunrise on June 11. Then on July 31 and August 1, Mars passes a little more than 1 degree from Uranus in the early morning hours.

    Bottom line: Uranus reaches opposition on November 9, 2022, in the constellation Aries and remains visible in the evening sky through March of 2023.

    Posted 
    November 9, 2022
     in 
    Astronomy Essentials

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