Dominic Ford, Editor
From the Outer Planets feed
From Cambridge, it will be visible between 21:00 and 04:20. It will become accessible around 21:00, when it rises to an altitude of 21° above your south-eastern horizon. It will reach its highest point in the sky at 00:42, 43° above your southern horizon. It will become inaccessible around 04:20 when it sinks below 22° above your south-western horizon.
Neptune opposite the Sun
This optimal positioning occurs when Neptune is almost directly opposite the Sun in the sky. Since the Sun reaches its greatest distance below the horizon at midnight, the point opposite to it is highest in the sky at the same time.
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 and largest.
This happens because when Neptune lies opposite the Sun in the sky, the solar system is lined up so that Neptune, the Earth and the Sun form a straight line with the Earth in the middle, on the same side of the Sun as Neptune.
In practice, however, Neptune orbits much further out in the solar system than the Earth – at an average distance from the Sun of 30.27 times that of the Earth, and so its angular size does not vary much as it cycles between opposition and solar conjunction.
On this occasion, Neptune will lie at a distance of 28.92 AU, and its disk will measure 2.4 arcsec in diameter, shining at magnitude 7.8. Even at its closest approach to the Earth, however, it is not possible to distinguish it as more than a star-like point of light without the aid of a telescope.
Neptune in coming weeks
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 position of Neptune at the moment it passes opposition will be:
|Object||Right Ascension||Declination||Constellation||Magnitude||Angular Size|
The coordinates above are given in J2000.0.
|The sky on 14 September 2021|
7 days old
All times shown in EDT.
The circumstances of this event were computed using the DE405 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.
|14 Sep 2021||– Neptune at opposition|
|13 Mar 2022||– Neptune at solar conjunction|
|16 Sep 2022||– Neptune at opposition|
|15 Mar 2023||– Neptune at solar conjunction|