134340 Pluto will reach opposition, when it lies opposite to the Sun in the sky. Lying 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 Ashburn, it will be visible between 23:13 and 03:19. It will become accessible around 23:13, when it rises to an altitude of 21° above your south-eastern horizon. It will reach its highest point in the sky at 01:16, 28° above your southern horizon. It will become inaccessible around 03:19 when it sinks below 21° above your south-western horizon.
A close approach to the Earth
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.
This happens because when 134340 Pluto lies opposite to the Sun in the sky, the Earth passes between 134340 Pluto and the Sun. The solar system is lined up with 134340 Pluto and the Earth on the same side of the Sun, as shown by the configuration labelled perigee in the diagram below:
In practice, however, 134340 Pluto orbits much further out in the solar system than the Earth – at an average distance from the Sun of 39.74 times that of the Earth, and so its brightness does not vary much as it cycles between opposition and solar conjunction.
Observing 134340 Pluto
At opposition, 134340 Pluto 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, 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, even through a telescope.
|Object||Right Ascension||Declination||Constellation||Magnitude||Angular Size|
The coordinates above are given in J2000.0.
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.
|The sky on 18 July 2021|
8 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.
|18 Jul 2021||– 134340 Pluto at opposition|
|20 Jul 2022||– 134340 Pluto at opposition|
|22 Jul 2023||– 134340 Pluto at opposition|
|23 Jul 2024||– 134340 Pluto at opposition|
© NASA/New Horizons