1 Ceres will reach opposition, when it lies opposite to the Sun in the sky. Lying in the constellation Cancer, 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 19:04, when it reaches an altitude of 22° above your eastern horizon. It will then reach its highest point in the sky at 00:44, 81° above your southern horizon. It will be lost to dawn twilight around 06:13, 23° above your western horizon.
A close approach to the Earth
At around the same time that 1 Ceres passes opposition, it also makes its closest approach to the Earth – termed its perigee – making it appear at its brightest.
This happens because when 1 Ceres lies opposite to the Sun in the sky, the Earth passes between 1 Ceres and the Sun. The solar system is lined up with 1 Ceres and the Earth on the same side of the Sun, as shown by the configuration labelled perigee in the diagram below:
In practice, however, 1 Ceres orbits much further out in the solar system than the Earth – at an average distance from the Sun of 2.77 times that of the Earth, and so its brightness does not vary much as it cycles between opposition and solar conjunction.
Observing 1 Ceres
At opposition, 1 Ceres 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, 1 Ceres 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.
|Object||Right Ascension||Declination||Constellation||Magnitude||Angular Size|
The coordinates above are given in J2000.0.
Over the weeks following its opposition, 1 Ceres 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 30 January 2018|
13 days old
All times shown in EST.
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.
|30 Jan 2018||– 1 Ceres at opposition|
|27 Apr 2018||– 1 Ceres at perihelion|
|07 Oct 2018||– 1 Ceres at solar conjunction|
|29 May 2019||– 1 Ceres at opposition|
© NASA/Dawn 2015