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Asteroid 532 Herculina at opposition

Dominic Ford, Editor
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The sky at

Asteroid 532 Herculina 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, 532 Herculina will reach its highest point in the sky around midnight local time.

From Washington, it will be visible in the morning sky, becoming accessible around 19:36, when it rises to an altitude of 21° above your eastern horizon. It will then reach its highest point in the sky at 01:12, 81° above your southern horizon. It will be lost to dawn twilight around 06:29, 25° above your western horizon.

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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 532 Herculina 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 532 Herculina lies opposite to the Sun in the night sky, the solar system is lined up so that 532 Herculina, the Earth and the Sun lie in a straight line with the Earth in the middle, on the same side of the Sun as 532 Herculina.

On this occasion, 532 Herculina will pass within 1.422 AU of us, reaching a peak brightness of magnitude 8.9. Nonetheless, even at its brightest, 532 Herculina is a faint object beyond the reach of the naked eye; binoculars or a telescope of moderate aperture are needed.

Finding 532 Herculina

The chart below indicates the path of 532 Herculina across the sky around the time of opposition.

It was produced using StarCharter and is available for download, either on dark background, in PNG, PDF or SVG formats, or on a light background, in PNG, PDF or SVG formats.

The position of 532 Herculina at the moment of opposition will be as follows:

Object Right Ascension Declination Constellation Magnitude
Asteroid 532 Herculina 09h39m00s +28°35' Leo 8.9

The coordinates above are given in J2000.0.

The sky on 05 February 2019
Sunrise
07:32
Sunset
18:01
Twilight ends
19:30
Twilight begins
06:03

1-day old moon
Waxing Crescent

0%

1 day old

Planets
Rise Culm. Set
Mercury 07:57 13:09 18:21
Venus 04:44 09:39 14:34
Moon 08:16 13:31 18:46
Mars 10:26 16:59 23:31
Jupiter 03:50 08:41 13:32
Saturn 05:46 10:37 15:29
All times shown in MST.

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

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Washington

Latitude:
Longitude:
Timezone:

37.13°N
113.51°W
MST

Color scheme