1,161 days ago
Dominic Ford, Editor
From the Dwarf Planets feed
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 Fairfield, it will be visible in the morning sky, becoming accessible around 20:22, when it reaches an altitude of 21° above your eastern horizon. It will then reach its highest point in the sky at 01:45, 72° above your southern horizon. It will be lost to dawn twilight around 05:38, 38° above your western horizon.
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 45.26 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 2020 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 51.69 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||13h09m20s||23°45'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 26 Mar 2020
|The sky on 26 March 2020|
2 days old
All times shown in EDT.
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.
|26 Mar 2020||– 136472 Makemake at opposition|
|27 Mar 2021||– 136472 Makemake at opposition|
|28 Mar 2022||– 136472 Makemake at opposition|
|29 Mar 2023||– 136472 Makemake at opposition|
© NASA/Hubble Space Telescope