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This month offers a great opportunity to spot the planet Uranus in the twilight sky. The seventh planet from the Sun can be a challenging object to locate at the best of times; it shines at about 6th magnitude, only vaguely visible to the naked eye and never stands out in the night sky unlike the 5 planets (not including the Earth) known since ancient times.

But on and around 10th February there is a superb chance to spot Uranus, as the brightest planet of all, Venus, will act as a perfect marker in the sky. During this conjunction, Venus will pass only 0.3 degrees north of Uranus and for a number of hours either side of this, the two planets will not be far apart.

The finder chart below shows the positions of Uranus and Venus around the time of closest separation (Feb. 10th: 5UT):

Conjunction of Venus and Uranus Star Chart

Conjunction of Venus and Uranus Star Chart - pdf format

To locate Venus, look towards the western horizon about an hour or so after sunset. Venus is unmistakably brilliant at magnitude -4.0. However, to see Uranus you will need at least a pair of binoculars. Technically at magnitude 5.9 Uranus is a naked eye object, but in the evening twilight with the bright searchlight of Venus beaming down, spotting Uranus without optical assistance will be nigh on impossible. However with binoculars Uranus should be an easy target. There are a number of stars of similar brightness to Uranus dotted around the area but none are so close to Venus. The finder chart shows such stars with the numbers next to them referring to their magnitudes not Flamsteed designations (e.g. 51 is equal to mag. 5.1).

It is interesting to note that Venus is almost exactly 10 magnitudes brighter than Uranus which means that it appears 10,000 times brighter in the night sky than its much more distant counterpart.