How to see Uranus in a telescope this weekend
The planet Uranus reaches opposition on Saturday (Sept. 29). This means that Uranus is directly opposite the sun in the sky.
rises will rise as the sun sets, and set as the sun rises. It will be highest in the sky at local midnight, roughly 1 a.m. if you are on Daylight Saving Time.
Uranus was discovered accidentally by William Herschel
on the night of March 13, 1781. All the other planets had been known since prehistoric times, so this was a major discovery in its time, and made Herschel famous.
The reason Uranus had remained undiscovered for so long is that, although it is quite large, the third largest planet after Jupiter and Saturn, it is very far away from the sun, so is very dimly lit. If you know exactly where to look, it is just possible to see Uranus with the naked eye, but most of us need binoculars and a good chart to spot it among the thousands of stars of similar brightness.
When Herschel first observed it, he was unsure what he had seen: a nebula, a comet, or a planet. After a night or two, he saw that it had moved, so it couldn’t be a nebula. It didn’t change size or shape, so he knew it wasn’t a comet.