© NASA/New Horizons

134340 Pluto at opposition

Dominic Ford, Editor
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The sky at

134340 Pluto will be well placed for observation, in the constellation Sagittarius. It will be visible for much of the night, reaching its highest point in the sky around midnight local time.

From Ashburn, it will be visible between 22:47 and 03:35. It will become accessible around 22:47, when it rises to an altitude of 21° above your south-eastern horizon. It will reach its highest point in the sky at 01:13, 30° above your southern horizon. It will become inaccessible around 03:35 when it sinks below 22° above your south-western horizon.

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134340 Pluto opposite the Sun

This optimal positioning occurs when 134340 Pluto is almost directly opposite the Sun in the sky. Since the Sun reaches its greatest distance below the horizon at midnight, the point opposite to it is highest in the sky at the same time.

At around the same time that 134340 Pluto passes opposition, it also makes its closest approach to the Earth – termed its perigee – making it appear at its brightest and largest.

This happens because when 134340 Pluto lies opposite the Sun in the sky, the solar system is lined up so that 134340 Pluto, the Earth and the Sun form a straight line with the Earth in the middle, on the same side of the Sun as 134340 Pluto.

In practice, however, 134340 Pluto orbits much further out in the solar system than the Earth – at an average distance from the Sun of 39.85 times that of the Earth, and so its angular size does not vary much as it cycles between opposition and solar conjunction.

On this occasion, 134340 Pluto will lie at a distance of 31.67 AU, and reach a peak brightness of magnitude 14.3. Even at its closest approach to the Earth, however, 134340 Pluto is so distant from the Earth that it is not possible to distinguish it as more than a star-like point of light.

134340 Pluto in coming weeks

Over the weeks following its opposition, 134340 Pluto will reach its highest point in the sky four minutes earlier each night, gradually receding from the pre-dawn morning sky while remaining visible in the evening sky for a few months.

A chart of the path of 134340 Pluto across the sky in 2014 can be found here, and a chart of its rising and setting times here.

The position of 134340 Pluto at the moment it passes opposition will be:

Object Right Ascension Declination Constellation Magnitude Angular Size
134340 Pluto 18h52m10s -20°16' Sagittarius 14.3 0.0"

The coordinates above are given in J2000.0.

The sky on 04 July 2014
Sunrise
05:48
Sunset
20:38
Twilight ends
22:36
Twilight begins
03:50

7-day old moon
Waxing Crescent

40%

7 days old

Planets
Rise Culm. Set
Mercury 04:48 11:56 19:05
Venus 03:50 11:06 18:23
Moon 12:48 18:39 00:30
Mars 13:54 19:30 01:09
Jupiter 07:00 14:16 21:32
Saturn 16:03 21:17 02:35
All times shown in EDT.

Source

The circumstances of this event were computed using the DE405 planetary ephemeris published by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

This event was automatically generated by searching the ephemeris for planetary alignments which are of interest to amateur astronomers, and the text above was generated based on an estimate of your location.

Related news

04 Jul 2014  –  134340 Pluto at opposition
06 Jul 2015  –  134340 Pluto at opposition
07 Jul 2016  –  134340 Pluto at opposition
10 Jul 2017  –  134340 Pluto at opposition

Image credit

© NASA/New Horizons

Ashburn

Latitude:
Longitude:
Timezone:

39.04°N
77.49°W
EDT

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