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Asteroid 4 Vesta at opposition

Dominic Ford, Editor
From the Asteroids feed

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The sky at

Asteroid 4 Vesta will be well placed for observation, lying in the constellation Cetus, well above the horizon for much of the night.

Regardless of your location on the Earth, 4 Vesta will reach its highest point in the sky around midnight local time.

From Fairfield, it will be visible between 19:11 and 04:19. It will become accessible around 19:11, when it rises to an altitude of 21° above your eastern horizon. It will reach its highest point in the sky at 23:43, 57° above your southern horizon. It will become inaccessible around 04:19 when it sinks below 21° 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 4 Vesta 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 4 Vesta lies opposite to the Sun in the night sky, the solar system is lined up so that 4 Vesta, the Earth and the Sun lie in a straight line with the Earth in the middle, on the same side of the Sun as 4 Vesta.

On this occasion, 4 Vesta will pass within 1.562 AU of us, reaching a peak brightness of magnitude 6.5. Nonetheless, even at its brightest, 4 Vesta is a faint object beyond the reach of the naked eye; binoculars or a telescope of moderate aperture are needed.

Finding 4 Vesta

The chart below indicates the path of 4 Vesta 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 4 Vesta at the moment of opposition will be as follows:

Object Right Ascension Declination Constellation Magnitude
Asteroid 4 Vesta 03h18m30s +08°26' Cetus 6.5

The coordinates above are given in J2000.0.

The sky on 12 November 2019
Sunrise
06:35
Sunset
16:36
Twilight ends
18:11
Twilight begins
05:00

15-day old moon
Waning Gibbous

99%

15 days old

Planets
Rise Culm. Set
Mercury 06:24 11:26 16:29
Venus 08:38 13:13 17:49
Moon 17:08 00:09 06:08
Mars 04:31 10:02 15:33
Jupiter 09:31 14:06 18:42
Saturn 10:56 15:35 20:15
All times shown in EST.

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

None available.

Fairfield

Latitude:
Longitude:
Timezone:

41.14°N
73.26°W
EST

Color scheme