HOT OFF THE PRESS !!!
(Updated September 23rd, 2012)
Uranus will be posing as a double star through the end of September!
This will be a great time to catch sight of it, and still satisfy that irresistible urge to split a pair of close “stars.”
You’ll find it closing quickly on 44 Piscium, with separations ranging from 10.8′ to an interesting 1.4′.
The separations listed below are as of 5 PM PDT/8PM EDT (2359 UT) on the dates indicated. The best observing times will be from about 10 PM to 2 AM local time, so the separations shown here should be very close to what you’ll see:
I’ve included a chart below to show Uranus’s location just to the east of the Circlet below the Great Square of Pegasus. You’ll find it holding down the southern point of a triangle formed with Delta (δ) and Omega (ω) Piscium. If you’re viewing in a metro area with bright skies, binoculars will be a big help in locating it.
For those with GOTO mounts, the coordinates (epoch 2000) for 44 Piscium are 00h 25m 24s, +01° 56′ 23”. The HIP catalog number is 2006, and the SAO catalog number is 109192.
44 Psc is a 5.8 magnitude class G5 star, so it should appear yellowish. Uranus shines at a magnitude of 5.7, and should have a bluish hue to it. Look for 6.15 magnitude HIP 1421 just barely northwest of Uranus. That’s a class K0 star, which should have at least an orange tinge to it.
So what you should actually see are three points of light — one yellow, one blue, and one orange — which should make quite a sight in binoculars and telescopes!
Thanks to Sky & Telescope’s web page for the separation numbers!
I finally got some clear skies, so I aimed my six inch Celestron f/8 achromatic wonder skyward and found this dazzling sight:
I was beside myself with technicolor joy! I didn’t expect anything like this kind of color! Of course, six inches of aperture helped bring the colors to life, but I also found them waiting for me in the 60mm f/15 I have mounted on the Celestron six inch. In a 20mm TV Plössl (45x) they were considerably subdued, but still quite obvious. The fact that the first quarter moon had set about an hour earlier gave me the added advantage of a dark sky.
After I finished the sketch, I dropped a 5mm Radian (240x) into the diagonal of the six inch refractor to see what would happen. 44 Piscium preserved it’s sharply focused yellow-gold glow, with the attractive addition of a dancing diffraction ring around it. Uranus offered quite a contrast in color — a dusky pale turquoise, almost translucent, and just slightly out of focus.
I marveled at that color for what seemed like forever —- it had me wondering why some nineteenth century observer had never suggested Uranus as a world covered with an ocean. If you didn’t know it was a frozen ball of ammonia and methane, it would certainly seem it could be a blue-water world.
If you haven’t had a chance to catch this pairing, take a look when you get a chance. Uranus is now moving farther away from 44 Piscium, so don’t wait too much longer.
I’ll leave you with the Greek spelling for this ancient god of the sky: Οúρανóζ !!!
Clear Skies! 😎