Backyard Observatory

You Can Get a Rare Look at Uranus Between Mars & the Moon Tonight

You'll need to use binoculars or a telescope, though.

Uranus night sky
A recent Hubble Space Telescope view reveals Uranus surrounded by its four major rings and by 10 of its 17 known satellites. This false-color image was generated by Erich Karkoschka using data taken on August 8, 1998, with Hubble's Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer. | NASA/JPL/STScI
A recent Hubble Space Telescope view reveals Uranus surrounded by its four major rings and by 10 of its 17 known satellites. This false-color image was generated by Erich Karkoschka using data taken on August 8, 1998, with Hubble's Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer. | NASA/JPL/STScI

Planets like Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars get a lot of attention from stargazers. They're generally pretty bright and easy to spot if you know when to look. However, the night of Wednesday, January 20, presents a unique opportunity to spot distant Uranus.

NASA calls the night an "easy opportunity" to spot the planet, even though you'll need to use binoculars or a telescope. It's going to have a close pass with the moon and Mars that night from our perspective. You'll be able to use the other two easily visible objects to locate Uranus. 

Just after the sun goes down, Mars and the moon will be relatively close together high in the southwestern sky. Uranus won't be visible with the naked eye but using binoculars, you can move between Mars and the moon to find the blue planet that is just daring you to make some butt jokes

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory's monthly "What's Up" feature says you can "find the crescent moon and the red planet in the couple of hours after it gets dark. Scan your way over from Mars toward the moon, and you should be able to find the faint, bluish disk of Uranus." You can get a great view of Uranus with a telescope, but the planets aren't close enough together in the sky for Mars and Uranus to be viewed simultaneously through most telescopes. 

Even if you don't have binoculars or a telescope, it'll be a good night to look up. Mars and the moon will make a beautiful pairing until late in the night. Still, it's definitely worth dusting off those binoculars you jammed in the closet years ago if you can find them. 

Ready to go stargazing?

Here are all the best stargazing events that you can get out and see this month or you could stay in a stream the northern lights from home. If you're just getting started, check out our guide to astronomy for beginners, the best meteor showers of 2021, or easy stargazing road trips from big US cities

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Dustin Nelson is a Senior Staff Writer at Thrillist. Follow Dustin Nelson on Twitter.
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