With mainly clear skies expected for most of Arkansas this evening, it’ll be a nice opportunity to get a glimpse of the Mars Uranus Conjunction. Mars has dimmed over the last few months as Earth has been moving ahead of it in our smaller, faster orbit around the sun. But Mars still shines on a par with the sky’s brightest stars. With clear skies, we should have little trouble viewing Mars as that brilliant ruddy “star” in the moon’s vicinity.
Uranus, on the other hand, is quite faint, well over 150 times fainter than Mars. Uranus is said to be the outermost of the sun’s planets visible with the eye alone. But seeing it by itself with the naked eye requires a very dark sky, and probably no moon (certainly no nearby moon).
The interesting news is that Mars and Uranus are close together on the sky’s dome, so that – theoretically – you could see Mars and Uranus in a single binocular field of view for the next week or so. Mars will pass 1¾° above of Uranus on January 21 at about 7pm CDT. For reference, the width of your finger at arm’s length approximates 2°, Unluckily for us, just as Mars and Uranus are closest, the Moon will be very, very close! The bright moonlight will make faint Uranus hard to see, even with an optical aid, but if you do manage to make it out, you’ll be seeing something 1,825,373,276 miles away!