Uranus 'Backs Up' in the Night Sky Ahead This Week's Full Moon

Tonight, Aug. 12, 2019, Uranus will reverse direction and begin a westward loop.
Tonight (Aug. 12), Uranus will reverse direction and begin a westward loop. (Image credit: Starry Night)

Just after midnight tonight (Aug. 12), Uranus will reverse direction and begin a retrograde loop that will last into mid-January, 2020. 

Currently, the blue-ish, methane-clouded planet is moving eastward (seen in the red path in the image below). However, tonight after midnight, Uranus will begin moving westward. The planet will be at a magnitude of 5.8, which isn't very bright but is just barely visible with the naked eye. 

Additionally, the brightness of the almost full moon will make viewing Uranus especially difficult. Those looking to spot the planet can find Uranus in southwestern Aries less than 5 degrees north of the star Al Kaff al Jidhmah (Xi Ceti). 

Related: NASA's Sky Events Calendar

The full sturgeon moon sets behind the Statue of Liberty at sunrise on August 26, 2018 in New York City. (Image credit: Gary Hershorn/Getty)

Tonight, Uranus will change direction as the Perseid meteor shower peaks. The Perseids are a popular and exciting astronomical event, and skywatchers will be able to spot 10-15, possibly more, of these meteors overnight from Aug. 12 to 13. However, as the nearing full moon will make Uranus difficult to see, it will also interfere with those looking to view the Perseids.

"Unfortunately, the moon will be very close to full on the night of the peak, which will wash out the fainter Perseids," NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke told Space.com. "The Perseids are rich in fireballs, so you'll still see Perseids; you just won't see the show you've seen on nights when the moon has not been around."

Tonight's astronomical spectacles come just a few days before the Sturgeon Moon, a full moon that will begin at 8:29 a.m. EDT (12:29 UTC) on Aug. 15. 

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Chelsea Gohd
Senior Writer

Chelsea “Foxanne” Gohd joined Space.com in 2018 and is now a Senior Writer, writing about everything from climate change to planetary science and human spaceflight in both articles and on-camera in videos. With a degree in Public Health and biological sciences, Chelsea has written and worked for institutions including the American Museum of Natural History, Scientific American, Discover Magazine Blog, Astronomy Magazine and Live Science. When not writing, editing or filming something space-y, Chelsea "Foxanne" Gohd is writing music and performing as Foxanne, even launching a song to space in 2021 with Inspiration4. You can follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd and @foxannemusic.