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Uranus, the seventh planet from the Sun is now becoming better placed for observation as it heads towards October's opposition. During July, the distant planet shines at magnitude +5.8 amongst the faint stars of Pisces, positioned just southeast of the well-known "Great Square of Pegasus".

Uranus as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2005 (NASA/ESA/M. Showalter/SETI Institute)

The planet is visible to the naked eye from a dark site. However, most people will require at least a pair of binoculars to find Uranus, but this is not too difficult once one is familiar with the stars of western Pisces.

The first area of interest to locate is 10 degrees south of the base of the Square of Pegasus. Here lies a circlet of six, mainly 4th magnitude stars, which form the southern fish of Pisces. From here, move about 20 degrees east to star delta (δ) Psc (mag. 4.4). Located a further 3.5 degrees south of this star is Uranus.

Uranus Finder Chart for July 2013

Uranus Finder Chart for July 2013 - pdf format

At the start of July, Uranus rises in the east during the early hours of the morning, improving to before midnight by months end. The planet then remains visible for the remainder of the night.

On July 18th, Uranus reaches its first stationary point, after which it begins retrograde motion, although since it is so distant from Earth, noticing it move against the fixed background stars requires some patience and observing over at least two, ideally well-spaced apart, nights!

Since Uranus has an apparent diameter of only 3.6 arc seconds, it appears small through amateur telescopes. However, it displays a striking green colour and at magnifications of 100-150x the planet disk is easily apparent, although distinguishing any surface details is difficult.

On July 27th, the 68% illuminated waning gibbous Moon passes 3 degrees north of Uranus.

Uranus July 2013 Data Table

DateRight AscensionDeclinationApparent MagnitudeApparent SizeIllumination (%)Distance from Earth (AU)Constellation
July 01, 201300h 46m 02.0s04d 11m 12.6s5.803.5"10020.075Pisces
July 06, 201300h 46m 14.8s04d 12m 23.7s5.803.5"10019.991Pisces
July 11, 201300h 46m 23.2s04d 13m 06.6s5.803.5"10019.908Pisces
July 16, 201300h 46m 27.1s04d 13m 20.9s5.803.6"10019.825Pisces
July 21, 201300h 46m 26.5s04d 13m 07.0s5.803.6"10019.743Pisces
July 26, 201300h 46m 21.4s04d 12m 25.2s5.803.6"10019.664Pisces
July 31, 201300h 46m 12.0s04d 11m 15.9s5.803.6"10019.586Pisces