© NASA/Galileo 1993. Pictured asteroid is 243 Ida.

Asteroid 14 Irene at opposition

Sat, 18 Feb 2017 at07:15 EST(334 days ago)
12:15 UTC

Dominic Ford, Editor
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Ashburn
The sky at

Asteroid 14 Irene will be well placed for observation, lying in the constellation Leo, well above the horizon for much of the night.

Regardless of your location on the Earth, 14 Irene will reach its highest point in the sky at around midnight local time.

From Ashburn (click to change), it will be visible in the morning sky, becoming accessible at around 19:36, when it rises 24° above your eastern horizon. It will then reach its highest point in the sky at 00:48, 75° above your southern horizon. It will be lost to dawn twilight at around 05:51, 26° above your western horizon.

The geometry of the alignment

This optimal positioning occurs when it makes its closest approach to the point in the sky directly opposite to the Sun – an event termed opposition. 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 14 Irene passes opposition, it also makes its closest approach to the Earth – termed its perigee – making it appear at its brightest in the night sky. This happens because when 14 Irene lies opposite to the Sun in the night sky, the solar system is lined up so that 14 Irene, the Earth and the Sun lie in a straight line with the Earth in the middle, on the same side of the Sun as 14 Irene.

On this occasion, 14 Irene will pass within 1.239 AU of us, reaching a peak brightness of magnitude 9.0. Nonetheless, even at its brightest, 14 Irene is a faint object beyond the reach of the naked eye or binoculars; a telescope of moderate aperture and a good star chart are needed.

Finding 14 Irene

The star charts below mark the path of 14 Irene across the sky around the time of its opposition.

This star chart is also available to download:

Light-on-dark PNG image PDF document
Dark-on-light PNG image PDF document

The exact position of 14 Irene at the moment of opposition will be as follows:

Object Right Ascension Declination Constellation Magnitude
Asteroid 14 Irene 10h32m30s +25°03' Leo 9.0

The coordinates above are given in J2000.0.

The sky on 18 February 2017
Sunrise 06:56
Sunset 17:49
Twilight ends
19:18
Twilight begins
05:27

21-day old moon
Age of Moon
21 days

All times shown in EST.
Rise Culm. Set
Mercury 06:32 11:36 16:40
Venus 08:12 14:41 21:10
Moon 00:37 05:54 11:11
Mars 08:49 15:12 21:35
Jupiter 21:59 03:42 09:20
Saturn 03:10 07:57 12:43

Source

The circumstances of this event were computed from orbital elements made available by Ted Bowell of the Lowell Observatory. The conversion to geocentric coordinates was performed using the position of the Earth recorded in the DE405 ephemeris published by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

The star chart above shows the positions and magnitudes of stars as they appear in the Tycho catalogue. The data was reduced by the author and plotted using PyXPlot. A gnomonic projection of the sky has been used; celestial coordinates are indicated in the J2000.0 coordinate system.

Image credit

© NASA/Galileo 1993. Pictured asteroid is 243 Ida.

Ashburn

Latitude:
Longitude:
Timezone:

39.04°N
77.49°W
EST

Color scheme