© Mike Brown et al., CalTech and Keck Observatory

136108 Haumea at opposition

Dominic Ford, Editor
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The sky at

136108 Haumea will reach opposition, when it lies opposite to the Sun in the sky. Lying in the constellation Bootes, it will be visible for much of the night, reaching its highest point in the sky around midnight local time.

From Washington, it will be visible in the morning sky, becoming accessible around 21:20, when it reaches an altitude of 21° above your eastern horizon. It will then reach its highest point in the sky at 02:17, 68° above your southern horizon. It will be lost to dawn twilight around 05:52, 37° above your western horizon.

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A close approach to the Earth

At around the same time that 136108 Haumea passes opposition, it also makes its closest approach to the Earth – termed its perigee – making it appear at its brightest.

This happens because when 136108 Haumea lies opposite to the Sun in the sky, the Earth passes between 136108 Haumea and the Sun. The solar system is lined up with 136108 Haumea 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, 136108 Haumea orbits much further out in the solar system than the Earth – at an average distance from the Sun of 43.08 times that of the Earth, and so its brightness does not vary much as it cycles between opposition and solar conjunction.

Observing 136108 Haumea

At opposition, 136108 Haumea 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, 136108 Haumea 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 136108 Haumea across the sky in 2021 can be found here, and a chart of its rising and setting times here.

At the moment of opposition, 136108 Haumea will lie at a distance of 49.37 AU, and reach a peak brightness of magnitude 17.3. Its celestial coordinates at the moment it passes opposition will be:

Object Right Ascension Declination Constellation Magnitude Angular Size
136108 Haumea 14h24m50s +16°05' Bootes 17.3 0.0"

The coordinates above are given in J2000.0.

Over the weeks following its opposition, 136108 Haumea 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 17 April 2021
Sunrise
06:56
Sunset
20:12
Twilight ends
21:44
Twilight begins
05:24

5-day old moon
Waxing Crescent

28%

5 days old

Planets
Rise Culm. Set
Mercury 06:54 13:24 19:54
Venus 07:16 13:54 20:33
Moon 10:20 17:58 00:43
Mars 10:06 17:32 00:57
Jupiter 04:26 09:47 15:08
Saturn 03:43 08:50 13:57
All times shown in MDT.

Source

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.

Related news

17 Apr 2021  –  136108 Haumea at opposition
21 Oct 2021  –  136108 Haumea at solar conjunction
19 Apr 2022  –  136108 Haumea at opposition
22 Oct 2022  –  136108 Haumea at solar conjunction

Image credit

© Mike Brown et al., CalTech and Keck Observatory

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