Early Wednesday (October 12), Uranus will briefly disappear from the night sky as the moon passes in front of the distant ice giant. The event, known as a lunar eclipse, will be visible from parts of the North American continent.
The lunar eclipse will begin at 2:11 AM. EDT (0611 GMT) on Wednesday morning, when Uranus — the seventh planet from the sun — begins to disappear behind the moon. According At The Sky.org (opens in new tab), Uranus will be in the constellation Aries at the time of the occultation and will appear about 16 degrees above the horizon. (Your fist at arm’s length corresponds to about 10 degrees.)
The planet will have an optical magnitude of 5.7 as it disappears behind the moon, meaning it won’t be incredibly bright to the naked eye. The smaller the size of an object, the brighter it appears.
Related: Night sky, October 2022: What you can see tonight [maps]
Like all lunar eclipses, the Uranus lunar eclipse will only be visible from certain parts of the planet such as Canada, the western US including Alaska, and northwestern Mexico. The cover on October 12 will not be visible in New York or the UK
This limited visibility occurs because the moon is close enough to Earth that its position in the sky relative to more distant celestial objects varies depending on where on the planet an observer is.
This means that while the lunar eclipse of Uranus is visible to some, sky watchers on the other side of Earth will see the planet and moon separated by two degrees, more than four times the moon’s diameter in the sky.
In other areas, the occultation will not be visible because the sky is below the horizon at the time of the lunar eclipse, or it will not be observable because the sky is too bright to see.
Where the lunar eclipse of Uranus is visible, the bright glow of the moon will hide it. That means sky watchers will need a pair of binoculars to see the event and the planet. Even where the lunar eclipse is not visible, the Moon’s proximity to the sky will give observers in those regions a good guide to spotting the dim planet.
Read more: The best binoculars 2022
Uranus is the third largest planet in the solar system and is four times wider than Earth. The planet is described as an ice giant with at least 80% or more of its mass consisting of an icy mixture of water, methane and ammonia.
Despite being so large, Uranus is not as visible as Jupiter and Saturn – the solar system’s giant gas giants – because it is further out in the solar system at a distance of about 1.8 billion miles (2.9 billions of kilometers).
That’s so far that it takes the planet about 84 Earth years to complete one orbit around the sun.
The moon is currently enjoying a long streak of occulting Uranus. It has hidden the ice giant from somewhere on Earth once a month since February 2022. This will continue for the rest of this year.
The next lunar eclipses of Uranus occur on November 8th and December 5th. Once again, these will only be observable from certain areas of the planet.
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