Despite Uranus being named after the Greek deity of the sky (whose grandson was none other than Zeus), the moniker of the seventh planet in our solar system has always caused sniggers and giggles.
People are quick to throw out a quick, easy joke about the blue, icy planet - all it wants is to be taken seriously. But people might focus more on what it looks like, rather than its funny name, when they get a decent look at it. Luckily, that will be possible over the next 24 to 36 hours.
On 19 October, Uranus will be at its closest point to Earth. However, whenever anyone says the words 'close' and 'space' in the same sentence, it's worth remembering that this is all relative. When the planet gets as 'close' as it can to us, that means just 2.7 billion kilometres (1.7bn miles) away.
When the two planets are the furthest away from each other, the distance is approximately 3.2bn km (1.9bn miles), so we should treat this occasion with some excitement. The closeness does mean Uranus will be visible to the naked eye, but binoculars or a telescope will certainly help.
Astronomy Magazine says it will be visible all night because it will be directly opposite the sun, which will illuminate the blue-green planet. It adds: "But the appearance of an outer planet changes slowly, and Uranus maintains its magnitude 5.7 peak throughout October."
That magnitude is referring to a concept known as 'apparent magnitude' which rates things on its visibility. Anything over a 7 rating can't be seen with the naked eye, but for comparison, the sun has an apparent magnitude of -27.
Kid with telescope
If you're a fan of Uranus (tee-hee) and you own a telescope then you're in for a real treat. The celestial body will be quite high in the sky (the highest it's been since February 1963) and you'll even get to see the planet's rings.
While Saturn is well known for its rings, Uranus, Jupiter and Neptune also have them. Voyager 2 and the Hubble Telescope have identified at least 13 rings since they were discovered in 1977 by James L. Elliot, Edward W. Dunham, and Jessica Mink.
Credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Showalter (SETI Institute)
For those people who might mutter 'meh' about Uranus, the night's sky could be much more theatrical in the coming days. Halley's Comet hasn't been seen in the heavens for decades, but every year, the debris left behind the comet continue to cause meteor showers.
The Orionids last for about a week during October and are expected to peak on the 21st. In some years there have been 50 to 70 meteors shooting across the sky every hour, so it's definitely something to look out for if it's a clear night.
Sources: Astronomy Magazine
Featured Image Credit: NASA