© NASA/New Horizons

134340 Pluto at opposition

Dominic Ford, Editor
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Across much of the world 134340 Pluto will be well placed for observation, in the constellation Sagittarius. It will be visible for much of the night, reaching its highest point in the sky around midnight local time.

From Seattle however, it will not be readily observable since it will lie so far south that it will never rise more than 20° above the horizon.

Begin typing the name of a town near to you, and then select the town from the list of options which appear below.

134340 Pluto opposite the Sun

This optimal positioning occurs when 134340 Pluto is almost directly opposite the Sun in the sky. 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 134340 Pluto passes opposition, it also makes its closest approach to the Earth – termed its perigee – making it appear at its brightest and largest.

This happens because when 134340 Pluto lies opposite the Sun in the sky, the solar system is lined up so that 134340 Pluto, the Earth and the Sun form a straight line with the Earth in the middle, on the same side of the Sun as 134340 Pluto.

In practice, however, 134340 Pluto orbits much further out in the solar system than the Earth – at an average distance from the Sun of 39.85 times that of the Earth, and so its angular size does not vary much as it cycles between opposition and solar conjunction.

On this occasion, 134340 Pluto will lie at a distance of 33.07 AU, and reach a peak brightness of magnitude 14.5. Even at its closest approach to the Earth, however, 134340 Pluto is so distant from the Earth that it is not possible to distinguish it as more than a star-like point of light.

134340 Pluto in coming weeks

Over the weeks following its opposition, 134340 Pluto 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.

A chart of the path of 134340 Pluto across the sky in 2020 can be found here, and a chart of its rising and setting times here.

The position of 134340 Pluto at the moment it passes opposition will be:

Object Right Ascension Declination Constellation Magnitude Angular Size
134340 Pluto 19h43m10s -22°20' Sagittarius 14.5 0.0"

The coordinates above are given in J2000.0.

The sky on 15 July 2020
Sunrise
05:26
Sunset
21:01
Twilight ends
23:42
Twilight begins
02:45

24-day old moon
Waning Crescent

21%

24 days old

Planets
Rise Culm. Set
Mercury 04:22 11:57 19:32
Venus 02:51 10:17 17:42
Moon 01:44 08:58 16:12
Mars 00:09 06:15 12:21
Jupiter 20:46 01:09 05:28
Saturn 21:07 01:38 06:05
All times shown in PDT.

Source

The circumstances of this event were computed using the DE405 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.

Related news

15 Jul 2020  –  134340 Pluto at opposition
17 Jul 2021  –  134340 Pluto at opposition
20 Jul 2022  –  134340 Pluto at opposition
22 Jul 2023  –  134340 Pluto at opposition

Image credit

© NASA/New Horizons

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