The brightest of the Sun’s naked-eye planets points the way to the faintest this evening. The fainter world is so dim, though, that you’ll need binoculars or a telescope to spot it.
The brighter world is Venus, the brilliant “evening star.” It far outshines all the other planets and stars in the night sky, so it’s impossible to miss. It’s well up in the west as night falls.
The other world is Uranus, the seventh planet from the Sun. It’s to the left of Venus by two or three degrees — about the width of your finger held at arm’s length. It’ll quickly drop away from Venus over the following nights.
Under especially clear, dark skies, Uranus is just visible to the eye alone — especially for those with sharp eyesight. The circumstances are so rare, though, that hardly anyone has seen it. And even those who have seen it probably didn’t realize what they were looking at.
The glare of the Moon brightens the sky tonight, making Uranus impossible to spot without help — even from the darkest skywatching sites. Through binoculars, it looks like a small, faint star. A telescope shows a tiny disk with a hint of its blue-green color.
Uranus is the third-largest planet in the solar system — four times the diameter of Earth. It looks so faint only because it’s far away — an average of about 1.8 billion miles.
Even without binoculars or a telescope, at least you can know where Uranus is — a couple of billion miles beyond the evening star.
Script by Damond Benningfield