On Friday (September 16), skywatchers will get the chance to watch Neptune in opposition as it moves against the sun in the night sky.
In New York, observers will see Neptune rise 21 degrees above the southeast horizon from about 9:07 p.m. EDT (0107 GMT Saturday, Sept. 17) until 4:40 a.m. EDT (0840 GMT) on Saturday September 17. This time the planet will move below the horizon in the southwest. (A fist at arm’s length equals about 10 degrees in the sky.)
This will be the best chance to see this elusive ice giant this year, as Neptune will be at its best as seen from a land During the opposition with a force of 7.8. This is due to the fact that it will be at its closest approach to our planet, also known as the “perihelion point”.
Because Neptune is the farthest planet in the world Solar System From our star, which sits about 30 times the distance from Earth to the Sun, its close proximity won’t make it appear much larger in the sky than usual.
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The planet will still be about 2.7 billion miles (4.34 billion km) away, as a result of which it will still appear as a star-like point of light to the naked eye, only becoming more visible when viewed with a telescope.
At the time of Neptune’s approach to Earth, the solar system will be arranged in this way the sunEarth and Neptune will be in line with our planet between our star and its outer world.
Although opposition to Neptune is an annual event, its timing varies by a few days due to the size of the planet’s distant orbit around the sun. It takes Neptune about 165 Earth years to complete its orbit, which means that when our planet realigns each year during its journey around the Sun, Neptune moves slightly forward in its orbit.
Skywatchers missing Neptune in opposition this year will be able to spot it again on September 19, 2023.
Astronomers who cannot wait for this event can instead see Jupiter moving in opposition on September 26, 2022, when the gas giant is closer to our planet than it was seven decades ago.
You can check out our guides for best binoculars and the The best telescopes To discover Neptune or any other planets when you are in a confrontation. If you want to take a good picture of Neptune, check out our recommendations for the best astrophotography cameras And the Best lenses for astrophotography.
Editor’s note: If you take a photo of Neptune and want to share it with Space.com readers, send your photo(s), comments, name, and location to firstname.lastname@example.org.