The planet Uranus was the first to be discovered after the invention of the telescope (William Herschel, 1781). At more than double the distance of Saturn and less than half the diameter, the planet Uranus is on fringe of naked eye visibility.
I've tried to spot Uranus without binoculars or telescope in the past. But for many years the planet was either lost among the stars of the southern Milky Way or just too far south of the celestial equator and so never very high my local sky.
Uranus is now north of the celestial equator (for the first time in decades) and in a part of the sky with very few stars. Last night I was able to see this distant ice giant world for the first time by naked eye. It looked like a tiny star - visible with averted vision.
I took a 30 second exposure on the camera; the original and labelled versions are shown below.
The dashed yellow line shows my method of star-hopping to the planet. Starting at the lower-left corner of the Square of Pegasus, jump to the two stars in Pisces (named epsilon and delta). At the moment Uranus makes an approximate equilateral triangle with these two.
Zooming in on the image.....the camera picked up the green-blue colour of Uranus' atmosphere:Not bad f
Not bad for a DSLR 2.8 billion km away from the subject!
It should become easier to find the planet Uranus during the next few years - at least until it enters the richer starfields of Aries and Taurus in the 2020s.
Just one more thing. I took another look at my 30 second image to see if I'd managed to pick up Neptune. I thought it unlikely but after checking - I definitely registered some light from the outermost planet of the solar system:
I've labelled the brighter stars (in Aquarius). You can find those three brighter stars in the original image near the top of the page: look down the RHS of the picture - almost two-thirds of the way down. I stretched the image a bit but Neptune is definitely there! I verified the position using SkyMap Pro - there are no stars at that position brighter than Neptune. Neptune was about magnitude +7.8 and 4.3 billion km from Earth when I took the picture. It was invisible to the naked eye.
Dr Adrian Jannetta
Guitar strummin' explorer of the universe. Mild mannered maths teacher by day and astronomer by night.