The planet Uranus is spectacularly close to an almost identically bright star throughout late September.
Uranus is easy to see with binoculars or any telescope, and it's even visible to the unaided eye in clear skies far from city lights. Yet few people have knowingly seen this planet.
There are actually two separate problems: locating Uranus and being sure that you've found it. Uranus looks precisely like a star to the unaided eye and through binoculars too. A telescope at 100× does show Uranus as a minuscule dot. But it appears truly tiny, just one-eleventh the size of Jupiter, so it's still easy to mistake for a star.
But Uranus is easy to identify in late September, when it's very close to the star 44 Piscium. They're by far the brightest "double star" in their sector of the sky.The pair is high enough to view easily by 10 p.m. daylight time. Look for the Great Square of Pegasus about halfway up the eastern sky; then look for the faint Circlet of Pisces to its lower right. Omega (ω) Piscium is lower left of the Circlet, and fainter Delta (δ) Piscium is lower left of Omega. Uranus and 44 Piscium form an isoceles triangle with Omega and Delta, as shown at right.
If your sky is too bright to see Omega and Delta Piscium without optical aid, you will need to star-hop down from the Great Square using binoculars or a finderscope using our detailed, full-page Uranus finder chart. This chart also gives a graphic representation of Uranus passing 44 Piscium on a day-by-day basis.
The two currently form a faint, close pair when viewed with the unaided eye under dark skies. From Friday through Monday they will be too close to resolve without optical aid, so they will appear to the unaided eye like a single star twice as bright as either component.
Binoculars separate the star from the planet, and they should also show their very different hues. Uranus has a distinctive color that's usually described as bluish or greenish, while 44 Piscium is distinctly yellow or orange by comparison.
At 100× or higher, a telescope should show that Uranus is a tiny extended disk or dot, while 44 Psc remains a spiky, pointlike star. Even if atmospheric conditions are poor, it should be clear that Uranus shimmers much less than the star.
This is a rare opportunity; it's almost unheard-of for a planet to be visible in the same high-power telescopic field of view with a similarly bright star. So make a point of viewing the pair any chance you get in the next week or two!
Separations for specific dates are listed below. These are all at 0h Universal Time, which falls on the evening of the preceding date in the time zones of the Americas. At closest approach around 12h UT (5 a.m. PDT) on September 23rd, Uranus will be 0.7′ south-southwest of 44 Piscium.
To locate Uranus at other times, or to locate the planet Neptune, see our article on observing Uranus and Neptune in 2012.