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Utah Skies: The Moon, Mars, Uranus

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On Jan. 5 the planet Mars entered the small constellation of Aries the Ram. Mars is bright and easy to locate in the evening skies. Mars will continue to move eastward during January. 

From Jan. 18 through Jan. 22 Mars passes close to the distant planet Uranus. The two planets will be less than two degrees apart during this time which provides the observer with a great opportunity to view these two planets together. Normally its possible to see Uranus under pristine dark sky conditions. But due to light pollution it’s a challenge to  locate the distant ice planet which makes the close conjunction of Mars and Uranus a unique opportunity to find Uranus on the evening of Jan. 21 when they will be the closest.  

Uranus is at magnitude 5.8. You will need a pair of binoculars to see both planets together. Uranus looks like  bluish-green in contrast to the bright red of Mars in the same field only 1.5 degrees apart. 

On the evening of Jan. 20 the waxing half illuminated Moon will pass Mars and Uranus. Early that evening the moon will be about a palms width or 7 degrees below Mars. 

The two planets will be visible in the evening sky around 6 pm 60 degrees above your southern horizon. They will be highest in the sky by 6:40 pm and can be observed past midnight. 

While the moon is about 240,000 miles away, Mars is about 90 million miles away and it takes light 9 minutes to reach mars while Uranus is a distant 1.8 billion miles and it takes light 2 hours and 43 minutes to reach Uranus.