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Uranus and Mars will be visible close together in the night sky tonight, January 21, 2021. (Image credit: SkySafari app)
Yesterday (Jan. 20) on Inauguration Day in the U.S., the two planets were in conjunction, meaning they appeared very close together in the sky. Tonight, the planets will share the same “right ascension,” with Mars passing just 1.75 degrees to the north of Uranus, according to Earthsky.org. (Your fist held at arm’s length covers about 10 degrees of sky.) The moon will also be shining nearby, making it a good landmark to start from when looking for the planets.
Uranus, the seventh planet in our solar system, which orbits 1.8 billion miles (2.9 billion kilometers) from the sun, will be at a magnitude 5.8 in the sky. Meanwhile, Mars, the fourth planet from the sun, which orbits at an average distance of “just” 143.6 million miles (231.1 million km), will be visible at magnitude 0.2.
The lower the magnitude number a cosmic object has, the brighter it is (there are even seriously bright objects with negative magnitudes), so Mars will be significantly brighter in the sky than Uranus. But, while Uranus will be tough to spot, both will still be visible with the help of binoculars, though the planets will be too far separated to fit within a telescope’s field of view, according to in-the-sky.org.
To try and find Uranus, first “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,” NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in its monthly “What’s Up” skywatching series.
Now, while Uranus and Mars will be putting on this show in the night sky, they won’t be the only planets hanging out tonight. Both Jupiter and Saturn are still officially in the evening sky, though the light from the setting sun makes it so they are not visible, according to Earthsky.org.
Email Chelsea Gohd at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.