© NASA/Voyager 2

Uranus enters retrograde motion

Dominic Ford, Editor
From the Outer Planets feed

Objects: Uranus
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Uranus will enter retrograde motion, halting its usual eastward movement through the constellations, and turning to move westwards instead. This reversal of direction is a phenomenon that all the solar system's outer planets periodically undergo, a few months before they reach opposition.

This motion was known to ancient observers, and it troubled them as they could not reconcile it with models in which the planets moved in uniform circular orbits around the Earth, as they believed.

The retrograde motion is caused by the Earth's own motion around the Sun. As the Earth circles the Sun, our perspective changes, and this causes the apparent positions of objects to move from side-to-side in the sky with a one-year period. This nodding motion is super-imposed on the planet's long-term eastward motion through the constellations.

The diagram below illustrates this. The grey dashed arrow shows the Earth's sight-line to the planet, and the diagram on the right shows the planet's apparently movement across the sky as seen from the Earth:

The retrograde motion of a planet in the outer solar system. Not drawn to scale.

2019–2020 apparition of Uranus

11 Aug 2019 – Uranus enters retrograde motion
28 Oct 2019 – Uranus at opposition
10 Jan 2020 – Uranus ends retrograde motion

Observing Uranus

Uranus enters retrograde motion as its 2019–2020 apparition gets underway, although it has already been visible for some weeks in the pre-dawn sky.

Its celestial coordinates as it enters retrograde motion will be:

Object Right Ascension Declination Constellation Magnitude Angular Size
Uranus 02h16m40s 13°09'N Aries 5.8 3.6"

The coordinates above are given in J2000.0.

From Seattle , it will be visible in the dawn sky, rising at 23:04 (PST) and reaching an altitude of 50° above the south-eastern horizon before fading from view as dawn breaks at around 04:30.

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Over the following weeks, Uranus will reach its highest point in the sky four minutes earlier each night, gradually becoming visible in the evening sky, as well as the pre-dawn sky, as it approaches opposition.

The sky on 11 Aug 2019

The sky on 11 August 2019
Twilight ends
Twilight begins

10-day old moon
Waxing Gibbous


10 days old

Rise Culm. Set
Mercury 04:21 11:56 19:30
Venus 05:51 13:12 20:32
Moon 18:20 22:41 03:03
Mars 06:35 13:42 20:49
Jupiter 16:21 20:39 00:58
Saturn 18:34 22:51 03:08
All times shown in PDT.


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.

Related news

11 Aug 2019  –  Uranus enters retrograde motion
28 Oct 2019  –  Uranus at opposition
10 Jan 2020  –  Uranus ends retrograde motion
15 Aug 2020  –  Uranus enters retrograde motion

Image credit

© NASA/Voyager 2





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