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You won't need a telescope to see Uranus tonight

We're talking about the planet here, people.

It's not often you can see something that's 1.7 billion miles away without using a telescope. 

But you'll have that chance tonight when the planet Uranus gets as close to the Earth as it ever does. 

It should be visible in the southeastern sky all night, NASA says. It's a blue-green star and you might be able to see it with the naked eye, although a pair of binoculars would help. 

Its closest point in 84 years

Thursday night and Friday morning is when Uranus reaches what astronomers call "opposition," which means it's at its closest point to Earth, National Geographic explains.

And that's saying something, because Uranus is so far away it takes 84 of our years for it to orbit the sun once. 

The sunlight reflecting off its ice takes three hours to reach those of us on Earth, National Geographic says. 

And ice is pretty much all there is on that planet. NASA says it has a rocky core surrounded by frozen gases. 

Let's just laugh now

Frozen gas ... on Uranus. And the best information is at a webpage called Uranus: In Depth

Keeping a straight face is difficult for many of us. 

By the way, this should be a good night for stargazing in Minnesota. 

Forecasters say we'll have clear skies and the moon is shrinking – "waning" is the official term – so the sky will be pretty dark, helping the stars stand out. 

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