Observing Uranus

We Bath Astronomers are rather proud of our association with William Herschel ( as can be seen from our logo!) . We feel privileged to be able to hold our observing discussions in the Herschel Museum, and to have our annual observation of Uranus using the Museum’s wonderful replica of Herschel’s discovery telescope – both by kind permission of the Museum’s Curator.

Observing Uranus on a casual basis is not particularly difficult if you know where to look. It is on the margin of naked eye visibility, and therefore easy to see in binoculars, and a typical amateur’s telescope will reveal a small bluish dot. But that dot is only about 3.5” in diameter at opposition, as compared to Mars (14” to 25”) or Jupiter (44” to 50”). Most text books and amateur observing guides say that useful observations with amateur telescopes are not really practical, and most amateurs follow that advice.

However, our own Kevin Bailey a very experienced planetary observer who was invited by the British Astronomical Association to coordinate results from systematic visual observations of Uranus, thinks that this advice is unduly cautious, that useful observations can be made, and while the disc generally shows only marginal differentiation, on some occasions quite marked features come into view. This is based both from his own personal observations, and his researches of other observations going back to the 19th century.