Neptune will reach opposition, when it lies opposite to the Sun in the sky. Lying in the constellation Capricornus, it will be visible for much of the night, reaching its highest point in the sky around midnight local time.
From Ashburn, it will be visible between 22:07 and 04:24. It will become accessible around 22:07, when it rises to an altitude of 22° above your south-eastern horizon. It will reach its highest point in the sky at 01:16, 38° above your southern horizon. It will become inaccessible around 04:24 when it sinks below 22° above your south-western horizon.
2010 apparition of Neptune
|31 May 2010||–||Neptune enters retrograde motion|
|20 Aug 2010||–||Neptune at opposition|
|07 Nov 2010||–||Neptune ends retrograde motion|
A close approach to the Earth
At around the same time that Neptune passes opposition, it also makes its closest approach to the Earth – termed its perigee – making it appear at its brightest.
This happens because when Neptune lies opposite to the Sun in the sky, the Earth passes between Neptune and the Sun. The solar system is lined up with Neptune and the Earth on the same side of the Sun, as shown by the configuration labelled perigee in the diagram below:
In practice, however, Neptune orbits much further out in the solar system than the Earth – at an average distance from the Sun of 30.07 times that of the Earth, and so its angular size does not vary much as it cycles between opposition and solar conjunction.
At opposition, Neptune is visible for much of the night. When it lies opposite to the Sun in the sky, this means that it rises at around the time the Sun sets, and it sets at around the time the Sun rises. It reaches its highest point in the sky at around midnight local time.
But even when it is at its closest point to the Earth, it is not possible to distinguish it as more than a star-like point of light without the aid of a telescope.
At the moment of opposition, Neptune will lie at a distance of 29.01 AU, and its disk will measure 2.4 arcsec in diameter, shining at magnitude 7.8. Its celestial coordinates at the moment it passes opposition will be:
|Object||Right Ascension||Declination||Constellation||Magnitude||Angular Size|
The coordinates above are given in J2000.0.
Over the weeks following its opposition, Neptune will reach its highest point in the sky four minutes earlier each night, gradually receding from the pre-dawn morning sky while remaining visible in the evening sky for a few months.
|The sky on 06 December 2021|
2 days old
All times shown in EST.
The circumstances of this event were computed using the DE430 planetary ephemeris published by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
This event was automatically generated by searching the ephemeris for planetary alignments which are of interest to amateur astronomers, and the text above was generated based on an estimate of your location.
|20 Aug 2010||– Neptune at opposition|
|22 Aug 2011||– Neptune at opposition|
|24 Aug 2012||– Neptune at opposition|
|26 Aug 2013||– Neptune at opposition|
© NASA/Voyager 2