Catch an Asteroid!

   Asteroid 4 Vesta, the 2nd largest and brightest asteroid reached opposition this month (June 19th) and for a brief time following opposition, through July, the asteroid will be close to Earth and more visible. This graphic shows the view at about 10 pm CDT on June 21st. Vesta will essentially stay in this general area but over time will slowly move westward as the distance between Vesta and Earth increases. Keep in mind that over the next week or so the Moon will move past this part of the sky as it waxes through full phase. As the Moon gets closer to Vesta it will become increasingly difficult to see the much dimmer Vesta. The Moon light should no longer be an issue after the Moon has moved toward the east enough.
   Vesta has an average diameter of 329 miles (530 km) and orbits the Sun in approximately 3.6 years in an elliptically shaped orbit that takes it to an aphelion distance of 2.57 AU (238,896,425 miles – 384,466,528 km) and a perihelion distance on 2.15 AU (199,854,986 miles – 321,635,422 km).

   During the next month or so Vesta will be bright enough to be seen with binoculars and certainly with a telescope. It’s current apparent magnitude is 5.3 meaning it could be seen with the naked eye – under dark enough skies. Even if you cannot see the asteroid there are certainly other deep sky objects in the area near Vesta including one of the four the ringed planets, Saturn.


Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

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