Planets in Opposition This Year
It’s officially planet season! When a planet is in opposition to the Earth, it appears bigger and brighter than usual in the night sky. This is because during an opposition, the planet is at its closest point to Earth in its orbit.
Read on to learn more about what an opposition is, which planets will be in opposition this year, and how to view the planets at their biggest and brightest!
What is Opposition?
Opposition occurs when a planet is on the opposite side of the celestial sphere to the Sun, as observed from Earth. During opposition, the planet in question is at its closest point to Earth in its orbit and in its full phase. This makes the planet appear bigger and brighter in the night sky than usual, creating ideal conditions for observation. You don’t need to catch a planet at the exact moment of opposition to enjoy them at their biggest and brightest – they will remain especially eye-catching in the sky in the weeks before and after opposition occurs!
Neptune | September 19
Neptune will reach opposition on Tuesday, September 19, 2023 at 4:09 AM MST. It will rise in the eastern sky around sunset, appearing in front of the constellation Pisces as a bluish “star.” Neptune will be brightest from now until November 17. The Blue Giant is best viewed through binoculars or a telescope – Neptune’s brightest moon, Triton, is visible in medium-size telescopes!
Jupiter | November 2
Jupiter reaches opposition on Thursday, November 2, 2023 at 10:00 AM MST. When Jupiter’s last opposition occurred on September 26, 2022, the planet was closer to Earth than it had been in 70 years. While this year’s opposition will not be quite as close as 2022’s, it will still offer an opportunity to see Jupiter at its biggest and brightest. It will be visible to the naked eye as a brilliant white “star” near the Moon, rising just after sunset.
Uranus | November 13
Uranus will be in opposition Monday, November 13, 2023, at 11:12 MST. Since the exact moment of opposition will come during daylight hours on the 13th, it will be best to view Uranus when it is rising in the east at sunset on the evening of the 12th. Uranus is difficult to spot with the naked eye even during opposition, so we recommend using a telescope or binoculars during your viewing. Look for a green “star” halfway between Jupiter and the Pleiades. It will appear to lie in front of the zodiacal constellation Aries, the Ram.