Lovers of the night sky, you are lucky this week. A waxing moon and a bright Mars will help you easily identify Uranus. All you need to do is hold a pair of binoculars or a small telescope in your hand, or if you are lucky enough to be in a very dark sky, you can try to see it with the naked eye. From January 19-21, Mars and Uranus will meet which means their apparent position in the sky will be very close. On January 20, the moon will be in its first-fourth phase, so the planet will not be brighter, but will impress more. On January 21 Uranus will be 1.75 degrees south of Mars which will be quite bright and visible above the moon.
So if you want to look gorgeous, go out after dark and look for the moon. Just above that, you will see Mars as a bright red body. If you look at it with binoculars, you will see Uranus just below it on the left. The moon will sit around midnight, so you don’t even have to be late (or wake up early) to catch this cosmic event.
It will be very difficult to catch Uranus if there are no optical instruments to help you. It comes down to the apparent amount, a constant value of how bright things appear in the sky. It is estimated that a person with a perfect vision somewhere with a dark midnight sky will see a star with a magnitude of +6.5. Any value even higher in the best possible scenario would be too dim for our eyes. Uranus is currently at a width of +5.7, certainly on the visible side of the limitations of human vision. But since not everyone has the right conditions for it, a telescope or a telescope will be your friend. By comparison, Mars is about 150 times brighter.
If you don’t catch this connection for the next couple of days, you’ll see two planets close to each other for weeks to come, but you’re advised to use a skymap app to make sure you’re not looking at the moon as a guide. I’m really looking at Uranus. If this event gives you a taste of the planetary combination or you have developed one after the massive connection of Saturn and Jupiter last month, lots of amazing astronomical events coming your way in 2021, including several Mars!