© NASA/Voyager 2

Neptune ends retrograde motion

Dominic Ford, Editor
From the Outer Planets feed

Objects: Neptune
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Neptune will reach the end of its retrograde motion, ending its westward movement through the constellations and returning to more usual eastward motion instead. This reversal of direction is a phenomenon that all the solar system's outer planets periodically undergo, a few months after they pass 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.

2020 apparition of Neptune

22 Jun 2020 – Neptune enters retrograde motion
11 Sep 2020 – Neptune at opposition
28 Nov 2020 – Neptune ends retrograde motion

Observing Neptune

Neptune leaves retrograde motion as its 2020 apparition comes to an end, although it will remain visible for some weeks in the dusk sky.

Its celestial coordinates as it leaves retrograde motion will be:

Object Right Ascension Declination Constellation Magnitude Angular Size
Neptune 23h17m00s -05°48' Aquarius 7.9 2.3"

The coordinates above are given in J2000.0.

From Fairfield , it will be visible in the evening sky, becoming accessible around 17:36 (EDT) as the dusk sky fades, 40° above your southern horizon. It will then reach its highest point in the sky at 18:40, 43° above your southern horizon. It will continue to be observable until around 22:16, when it sinks below 21° above your south-western horizon.

Begin typing the name of a town near to you, and then select the town from the list of options which appear below.

Over the following weeks, Neptune will reach its highest point in the sky four minutes earlier each night, gradually disappearing into evening twilight.

The sky on 28 November 2020
Sunrise
06:56
Sunset
16:28
Twilight ends
18:04
Twilight begins
05:20

13-day old moon
Waxing Gibbous

98%

13 days old

Planets
Rise Culm. Set
Mercury 05:51 10:49 15:47
Venus 04:28 09:47 15:05
Moon 15:37 22:49 05:06
Mars 13:57 20:22 02:47
Jupiter 10:30 15:13 19:55
Saturn 10:37 15:22 20:07
All times shown in EST.

Source

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

28 Nov 2020  –  Neptune ends retrograde motion
10 Mar 2021  –  Neptune at solar conjunction
25 Jun 2021  –  Neptune enters retrograde motion
14 Sep 2021  –  Neptune at opposition

Image credit

© NASA/Voyager 2

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