Finding Uranus and Neptune in 2006

Uranus and Neptune spend 2006 in Aquarius and Capricornus, respectively. The small blue boxes on this key chart show the areas covered by the larger charts below.
Sky & Telescope diagram by Gregg Dinderman.
This year it's easy to find Uranus and Neptune — if you know the constellations Aquarius and Capricornus and have binoculars or a small telescope. Each planet happens to be in the low-power field of a naked-eye star plotted on the constellation chart at left. Aim your binoculars at that star, then use one of the close-up charts below to identify the planet among the other points of light in the vicinity.

The big charts (linked in red above) show stars as faint as magnitude 10, much fainter than either planet. Note the declination scale on their right edge. The 1° between the tick marks is about the diameter of the view in a typical 50-power eyepiece, and only 1/6 the diameter of the view in a typical 8-power finderscope or 8-power binoculars.

Uranus's reference star is orange Lambda Aquarii, shining dimly to the naked eye at magnitude 3.7. Uranus glows at about magnitude 5.8. It's at opposition in early September.

Neptune's signpost is 4.3-magnitude Iota Capricorni. This planet, magnitude 7.8 or 7.9 all year, comes to opposition in mid-August.


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