Neptune at Opposition

Today the planet Neptune will pass through opposition, directly opposite the Sun in our sky. The planet will be well placed for observation all night long, rising at sunset, transiting at midnight, and setting at sunrise. If you are looking to observe Neptune, it is currently shining at magnitude 7.8 in eastern Aquarius.

Neptune from Voyager 2
Neptune from Voyager 2, Credit: NASA /JPL

As the outer planets Uranus and Neptune move so slowly across the sky, the timing of oppositions is driven by the Earth’s orbit and occur each year at nearly the same time. Neptune’s orbital period is 164.8 years, taking over a century and a half to circle the celestial globe once. As Neptune was discovered in 1846, it has completed a little over one orbit since discovery.

Neptune at Opposition

Today the planet Neptune will pass through opposition, directly opposite the Sun in our sky. The planet will be well placed for observation all night long, rising at sunset, transiting at midnight, and setting at sunrise. If you are looking to observe Neptune, it is currently shining at magnitude 7.8 in the center of the constellation Aquarius.

Neptune from Voyager 2
Neptune from Voyager 2, Credit: NASA /JPL

As the outer planets Uranus and Neptune move so slowly across the sky, the timing of oppositions is driven by the Earth’s orbit and occur each year at nearly the same time. Neptune’s orbital period is 164.8 years, taking over a century and a half to circle the celestial globe once. As Neptune was discovered in 1846, it has completed a little over one orbit since discovery.

Neptune at Opposition

Today the planet Neptune will pass through opposition, directly opposite the Sun in our sky. The planet will be well placed for observation all night long, rising at sunset, transiting at midnight, and setting at sunrise. If you are looking to observe Neptune, it is currently shining at magnitude 7.8 in the center of the constellation Aquarius.

As the outer planets Uranus and Neptune move so slowly across the sky, the timing of oppositions is driven by the Earth’s orbit and occur each year at nearly the same time. Neptune’s orbital period is 164.8 years, taking over a century and a half to circle the celestial globe once. As Neptune was discovered in 1846, it has completed a little over one orbit since discovery.

Venus and Neptune

Over the next few days Venus will swing quite close to Neptune. Today the pair is separated by 2°41′. This will decrease to 49′ on the 11th and remain close at 51′ on the 12th.

The pair is quite a mismatch… Neptune is a mere 7.9 magnitude while Venus is a brilliant -4.2, over 60,000 times brighter. The 4.8 magnitude star σAqr will be 1.5° southwest of the two, the only nearby object that can be confused for the planet.

Next month, on May 15th, Venus will pass about 1° from to Uranus for a similar oddball conjunction.

Neptune at Opposition

Today the planet Neptune will pass through opposition, directly opposite the Sun in our sky. The planet will be well placed for observation all night long, rising at sunset, transiting at midnight, and setting at sunrise. If you are looking to observe Neptune, it is currently shining at magnitude 7.8 in the center of the constellation Aquarius.

Mercury and Mars

For the next few evenings Mercury and Mars will pair in the sunset for a dance. Tonight the two are 3°13′ apart, with Mercury rising rapidly. Tomorrow the two will be only 2°17′ apart. On the 7th and 8th there will be about 30′ between the two. After the 8th the two will gradually draw apart. On the 10th the separation will be just over 2° with the addition of a 1.8% illuminated Moon just 7° lower and north of the pair.

The pair should be easy to spot. Mercury will be shining brightly at -1 magnitude with Mars at about 1.2 magnitude. A pair of binoculars might help spot the dimmer Mars.

Neptune is also in this dance, but at 8th magnitude it could be very difficult or impossible to spot, even with optical aid. On the 5th, with Mercury and Mars only 2&deg apart, Neptune will be right between the two.

Mars and Neptune

Tonight and tomorrow night Mars and Neptune will be under a degree apart. But, as the pair is quite low in the sky, this may not be observable. The planets will be 40′ apart tonight, a little closer tomorrow at only 27′ separation. The pair will be 14° above the horizon at sunset. Mars, shining a 1.2 magnitude should be relatively easy to spot. The 8th magnitude Neptune may be too dim to see, even with a telescope, against the bright glow of sunset.

On the evening of February 5th, Mercury will join in to create a trio, just 2° below Mars with Neptune between the two.