© NASA/Hubble Space Telescope

136472 Makemake at opposition

Dominic Ford, Editor
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136472 Makemake will reach opposition, when it lies opposite to the Sun in the sky. Lying in the constellation Coma Berenices, 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 in the morning sky, becoming accessible around 20:41, when it reaches an altitude of 21° above your eastern horizon. It will then reach its highest point in the sky at 02:09, 77° above your southern horizon. It will be lost to dawn twilight around 06:07, 39° above your western horizon.

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A close approach to the Earth

At around the same time that 136472 Makemake passes opposition, it also makes its closest approach to the Earth – termed its perigee – making it appear at its brightest.

This happens because when 136472 Makemake lies opposite to the Sun in the sky, the Earth passes between 136472 Makemake and the Sun. The solar system is lined up with 136472 Makemake and the Earth on the same side of the Sun, as shown by the configuration labelled perigee in the diagram below:


When a planet is at opposition, the solar system is aligned such that the planet lies on the same side of the Sun as the Earth. At this time, the planet makes its perigee, or closest approach to the Earth. Not drawn to scale.

In practice, however, 136472 Makemake orbits much further out in the solar system than the Earth – at an average distance from the Sun of 45.34 times that of the Earth, and so its brightness does not vary much as it cycles between opposition and solar conjunction.

Observing 136472 Makemake

At opposition, 136472 Makemake is visible for much of the night. When it lies opposite to the Sun in the sky, this means that it rises at around the time the Sun sets, and it sets at around the time the Sun rises. It reaches its highest point in the sky at around midnight local time.

But even when it is at its closest point to the Earth, 136472 Makemake is so distant from the Earth that it is not possible to distinguish it as more than a star-like point of light, even through a telescope.

A chart of the path of 136472 Makemake across the sky in 2015 can be found here, and a chart of its rising and setting times here.

At the moment of opposition, 136472 Makemake will lie at a distance of 51.53 AU, and reach a peak brightness of magnitude 17.1. Its celestial coordinates at the moment it passes opposition will be:

Object Right Ascension Declination Constellation Magnitude Angular Size
136472 Makemake 12h52m50s 26°07'N Coma Berenices 17.1 0.0"

The coordinates above are given in J2000.0.

Over the weeks following its opposition, 136472 Makemake 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.

The sky on 21 March 2015
Sunrise
07:11
Sunset
19:23
Twilight ends
20:55
Twilight begins
05:43

1-day old moon
Waxing Crescent

6%

1 day old

Planets
Rise Culm. Set
Mercury 06:44 12:18 17:53
Venus 08:40 15:27 22:15
Moon 07:56 14:30 21:11
Mars 08:07 14:37 21:08
Jupiter 15:13 22:17 05:20
Saturn 00:30 05:28 10:27
All times shown in EDT.

Source

The circumstances of this event were computed using the DE430 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.

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21 Mar 2015  –  136472 Makemake at opposition
22 Mar 2016  –  136472 Makemake at opposition
23 Mar 2017  –  136472 Makemake at opposition
24 Mar 2018  –  136472 Makemake at opposition

Image credit

© NASA/Hubble Space Telescope

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