If the weather is clear in your area on the night of October 19th, you may be able to spot Uranus with the naked eye or a pair of binoculars. Uranus will be in the constellation Pisces in the southeastern sky. Uranus will be the “wandering star” with a blue tint due to the high concentrations of methane in the atmosphere.
And, No, We’re Not Going There!
Besides inspiring a ton of jokes for its unfortunate name, Uranus is known as a super weird planet with a rotational axis that is tilted nearly 98 degrees compared to Earth’s and a magnetic field that is tilted by an additional 60 degrees. It also has a magnetic field that is capable of opening and closing as its spin causes magnetic lines to break and reconnect. Researchers who have studied Uranus have referred to it as “a geometric mess.” NASA has been debating the idea of sending a spacecraft on a route to the outer planets and many scientists would like to devote a mission to Uranus, but maybe some NASA decision-makers are concerned about how the public would react to an announcement that NASA is sending a probe to Uranus.
If you can put aside that crude sense of humor, though, you might be able to organize an observing party for Uranus on the 19th and some of the cool astronomical events happening over the next few days if you happen to be a member of your local astronomy club or know someone who is. Don’t be surprised if you happen to see a meteor or two while observing Uranus, as the Orionids are approaching their peak and will max out on the night of the 20th. Next week’s viewing schedule also includes Saturn’s proximity to the Moon: It will be just above the Moon on October 23rd and just below the Moon on October 24th.