Dwarf Planet Ceres at Solar Opposition


   Sunday October 7th Dwarf Planet Ceres reaches solar opposition – on the opposite side of the Sun as (not) seen from Earth.
   Dwarf Planet Ceres, formerly classified as an asteroid, is the largest member of the inner asteroid belt. Read and learn more about the closest Dwarf Planet to Earth.
   
   
   
   
   

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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Asteroid Vesta Passes Saturn

   For the next several evenings Asteroid Vesta will be passing within 2-3o from the outer planet Saturn. Currently Vesta is only a couple of months past opposition, June 20th, and is still bright enough to be seen and followed as its position relative to Saturn slowly changes each evening. Saturn has an apparent magnitude of 0.47 while Asteroid Vesta has an apparent magnitude of 7.0.

   With binoculars Vesta is visible under dark enough skies and with careful observation and a star map of that area the motion of Vesta may be followed. In that same general area, within the field of view of 10×50 binoculars, at least 3 Messier objects may also be seen. The Lagoon Nebula, M-8; The Trifid Nebula, M-20; and open star cluster, M-21.
   This animated graphic shows a binocular view of Saturn and Vesta each day from September 25th to the 30th.

   
   
   

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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2018 Quadrantid Meteor Shower

   The annual Quadrantid Meteor Shower reaches its peak Wednesday morning January 3rd officially at 14:19 UT (9:14 am CST). The Quadrantids are one of the best meteor showers of the year but does not get much attention possibly because it’s winter in the northern hemisphere, and this area of the sky is not easily seen from south of the equator.
   The ZHR (average hourly rate) for this meteor shower ranges from 60 to several hundred. Best time for viewing is before sunrise as your part of the Earth is rotating toward the east sort of putting you headfirst into the meteor shower. To find the radiant for this meteor shower look for the stars of the Big Dipper and then look below the end stars in the handle.
click on graphic to see it larger
   Adding to the thrill of seeing a shooting star are the the planets Jupiter and Mars about 1o apart and closing in on a very close 0.2o separation on the 6th. Look closely and you may see Zubenelgenubi, one of the stars making up Libra the Scales. All three fit comfortably within the field of view of binoculars and contrast nicely in their respective apparent magnitudes (magnitudes shown on graphic).

Boötes the Herdsman

Boötes the Herdsman

   The radiant is the area from where the meteors seem to radiate outward from. Meteor showers owe their name to the constellation region the radiant is located within, and as this graphic shows the radiant is within the boundary of the constellation Boötes the Herdsman. So why the name Quadrantids?
   On some of the older star charts there is a now ‘extinct’ constellation called Quadrans Muralis, the Mural. This was a constellation located between Boötes and Draco the Dragon that was created in 1795 by French Astronomer Jérôme Lalande. It is a picture, or mural, of a Quadrant that had been used to map the stars. The Quadrantids Meteor Shower was named for the no longer used constellation.

   
   
   

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.

Moon – Dwarf Planet Ceres Conjunction

   Friday morning September 15th the waning crescent Moon will be within about 6o from the dwarf planet Ceres. Ceres should be just visible with binoculars with an apparent magnitude of between 7th and 8th. Within the binocular field of view, about 3o above Ceres is 3rd magnitude kappa Geminorum. And about 5o from Ceres is the star Pollux, one of the ‘Twin’ stars in Gemini the Twins.

   
   
   

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.

Asteroid 3 Juno at Opposition

   Sunday July 2nd asteroid 3 Juno will be at opposition, that is, it will be 180o from the Sun with the Earth between the two. At opposition, any Sun orbiting object beyond Earth rises at about local time for sunset and sets at local time for sunrise. At about 9th-10th magnitude the asteroid will be too faint to be seen with binoculars or the naked eye.

   There are, however, a couple brighter objects sort of surrounding 3 Juno including Asteroid Hebe at 4th magnitude, and the outer planet Saturn at nearly 0 magnitude.
   Asteroid 3 Juno was the third asteroid discovered, hence its numerical prefaced name. It was discovered by German astronomer Karl L. Harding in 1804, and it is the 11th largest asteroid.

   
   
   

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.

Ceres at Opposition

   Friday October 21st Dwarf Planet Ceres reaches opposition. This places the Earth in between Ceres and the Sun, much like the arrangement of the Sun, Earth, and Moon during full Moon phase. When at opposition an outer planet is visible for most if not all of the night hours as it rises around sunset and then sets around sunrise.


   Ceres, at 7th magnitude, is currently within the boundaries of the constellation Cetus the Sea Monster. Ceres is bright enough to see with binoculars, and is less than 5 o from the long period variable star Mira, or aka “Mira the Wonderful”.

   Learn more about Dwarf Planet Ceres by visiting the NASA Dawn mission web site where we have the Dawn spacecraft orbiting Ceres.
   
   
   
Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

   Friday evening, April 8th at sunset or shortly thereafter look toward the western horizon for a very thin 1.5-day young waxing crescent Moon. There you will find the Moon between two rocky objects, an asteroid and a planet.
   Down to the right from the Moon is the innermost planet Mercury shining at nearly 1st magnitude. Just up to the left and less than 1o from the Moon is the asteroid 4 Vesta, which by contrast currently has an apparent magnitude of nearly 8.0 making it an object visible in binoculars and telescopes.
   At 4 UT April 9th the Moon will occult, pass in front of Vesta, but this occultation will only be visible from the Philippine Islands, and Hawaii and a few other islands in that part of the Pacific Ocean.

   Read more about Vesta at Wikipedia, or at the NASA Dawn mission web site.

   
   
   
   

Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.