Your chance to spot two outer planets

Looking for a challenge in the autumn sky? Try seeking the two outer planets, Uranus and Neptune.

While Saturn is still easily found in the evening sky in autumn 2019, fairly low down over in the south-west, Jupiter is rapidly sinking out of sight into the twilight and the other bright planets are in the morning sky. So this is the time to look for Uranus and Neptune, which will be with us until well into the New Year. And actually they will be a feature of autumn skies for many years to come, as they are so distant and slow-moving.

Unless your skies are really terrible, you should be able to find both of them just using binoculars. Or of course if you have a whizzo telescope that finds things for you, you can let it do the work – but even so, because both planets just look like stars, you might be in some doubt to start with that you’ve actually found them. The photo below shows the challenge that awaits you.

Uranus in sky
Part of a fisheye-lens view of the October sky looking east. Uranus is circled. Photo: Robin Scagell

To find them from scratch, you need first to get your bearings in the sky and locate two well-known constellations, Aries and Aquarius. From these, you’ll need to do some clever star-hopping by comparing our maps with the actual sky– not as easy as it sounds! But give it a try, and maybe keep track of these distant worlds over the next few months.

Our help page on finding Uranus and Neptune, with detailed charts and more information about what you can see through a telescope, is at https://www.popastro.com/main_spa1/find-uranus-and-neptune-in-2019-2020/