© European Southern Observatory 2021. Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser/Vernazza et al./MISTRAL algorithm (ONERA/CNRS).

Asteroid 16 Psyche at opposition

Dominic Ford, Editor
From the Asteroids feed

Objects: 16 Psyche
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The sky at

Asteroid 16 Psyche will be well placed, lying in the constellation Taurus, well above the horizon for much of the night.

Regardless of your location on the Earth, 16 Psyche will reach its highest point in the sky around midnight local time.

From San Diego, it will be visible between 18:38 and 04:37. It will become accessible at around 18:38, when it rises to an altitude of 21° above your eastern horizon. It will reach its highest point in the sky at 23:38, 75° above your southern horizon. It will become inaccessible at around 04:37 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 16 Psyche 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 16 Psyche lies opposite to the Sun in the night sky, the solar system is lined up so that 16 Psyche, the Earth and the Sun lie in a straight line with the Earth in the middle, on the same side of the Sun as 16 Psyche.

On this occasion, 16 Psyche will pass within 1.688 AU of us, reaching a peak brightness of magnitude 9.7. Nonetheless, even at its brightest, 16 Psyche is a faint object beyond the reach of the naked eye; binoculars or a telescope of moderate aperture are needed.

Finding 16 Psyche

The chart below indicates the path of 16 Psyche 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 16 Psyche at the moment of opposition will be as follows:

Object Right Ascension Declination Constellation Magnitude
Asteroid 16 Psyche 04h59m30s 17°57'N Taurus 9.7

The coordinates above are given in J2000.0.

The sky on 7 Dec 2020

The sky on 7 December 2020
Twilight ends
Twilight begins

22-day old moon
Waning Crescent


22 days old

Rise Culm. Set
Mercury 06:07 11:09 16:12
Venus 04:32 09:52 15:11
Moon 22:42 05:34 12:17
Mars 13:24 19:46 02:08
Jupiter 09:32 14:37 19:42
Saturn 09:37 14:43 19:50
All times shown in PST.


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 DE430 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

© European Southern Observatory 2021. Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser/Vernazza et al./MISTRAL algorithm (ONERA/CNRS).


San Diego



Color scheme