Neptune Rising, and Pluto Celebrates Five Years of 'Dwarf' Status
It’s no moon, Venus, Jupiter or even Mars, but the eighth (and last, since Pluto was stripped of its status) planet in our solar system, Neptune, was at opposition on August 24. This means it is exactly opposite the sun in Mother Earth’s skies, and at 1 a.m. (to allow for daylight savings time) on Friday morning, meaning it was exactly overhead. But for a few weeks more it will remain visible to those lucky enough for own binoculars or have access to a telescope.
While you're at it, tip a hat to Pluto, which as of Friday August 24 had "survived" five years as a so-called dwarf rather than a planet, according to RedOrbit.com. Pluto recently surprised everyone, when NASA discovered a fifth moon orbiting the icy rogue.
Neptune is most easily located by referencing two stars visible to the naked eye, according to Space.com. The triangular constellation we know as Capricornus, just left of Sagittarius, on the southern horizon at about 1 a.m. will give you Nashira and Deneb Algiedi, the two stars at the eastern angle of Capricornus' triangle. They point left toward Iota, a star in Aquarius. Iota and 38 Aquarii will in turn point your eye toward Neptune, Space.com said.
The most you’ll get is a “tiny blue-green disk, hardly larger than a pinpoint,” Space.com said. “But knowing this is the farthest outpost of our planetary system still makes it worth the search.”
The video below gives a unique, up-close view of this gas giant from the space rover Voyager, taken in 2009. Moreover, it also catches the sounds of Neptune as it flies by. Stay tuned for a ghostly siren song.