Picture of the Moment...

The Moon and Jupiter point the way to Uranus, 23 September 2010

The planet Uranus lurks at the edge of naked eye visibility and is effectively invisible without optical aid from the UK. However, having the big bright planet Jupiter nearby was a good opportunity to catch it, and on this date the full Moon joined the party too.

Roll your mouse over the picture to identify the objects you see...

Moon, Jupiter & Uranus on 23-24 Sept 2010

The Moon, Jupiter and Uranus captured on the night of 23 - 24 Sept 2010.

The nearby full Moon has been moved into the shot to give it scale, but in other respects the relative sizes and positions of the Moon and planets is genuine and corresponds to what you can expect to see through binoculars.

 

Uranus lies 5 times further away than Jupiter. It takes 84 years to complete one orbit of the Sun, while Jupiter takes a mere 12 years, so every 14 years or so Jupiter overtakes Uranus - 2010 was one such year. The Moon of course passes this same point every month but is seldom joined by these two planets to close together.

I confess that this picture is a bit of a cheat - it is of necessity a composite photo because the difference in brightness between the various celestial bodies would make it impossible to expose them all correctly on a single shot. Also, the Moon, 12 hours after full, was actually a few degrees away but I've brought it into shot to give a sense of scale (if only nature were really that obliging!). However, the positions of Uranus, Jupiter and of Jupiter's moons are genuine.

Click here for a fuller explanation and to see how the planets moved on consecutive nights

Picture added on 6 December 2010


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