© NASA/Galileo 1993. Pictured asteroid is 243 Ida.

Asteroid 2 Pallas at opposition

Dominic Ford, Editor
From the Asteroids feed

Objects: 2 Pallas
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The sky at

Asteroid 2 Pallas will be well placed, lying in the constellation Hercules, well above the horizon for much of the night.

Regardless of your location on the Earth, 2 Pallas will reach its highest point in the sky around midnight local time.

From Fairfield, it will be visible all night. It will become visible around 21:27 (EDT), 36° above your eastern horizon, as dusk fades to darkness. It will then reach its highest point in the sky at 01:47, 74° above your southern horizon. It will be lost to dawn twilight around 04:15, 55° 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 2 Pallas 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 2 Pallas lies opposite to the Sun in the night sky, the solar system is lined up so that 2 Pallas, the Earth and the Sun lie in a straight line with the Earth in the middle, on the same side of the Sun as 2 Pallas.

On this occasion, 2 Pallas will pass within 2.16 AU of us, reaching a peak brightness of magnitude 9.0. Nonetheless, even at its brightest, 2 Pallas is a faint object beyond the reach of the naked eye; binoculars or a telescope of moderate aperture are needed.

Finding 2 Pallas

The chart below indicates the path of 2 Pallas 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 2 Pallas at the moment of opposition will be as follows:

Object Right Ascension Declination Constellation Magnitude
Asteroid 2 Pallas 16h28m50s 25°44'N Hercules 9.0

The coordinates above are given in J2000.0.

The sky on 16 May 2024
Twilight ends
Twilight begins

8-day old moon
Waxing Gibbous


8 days old

Rise Culm. Set
Mercury 04:42 11:16 17:51
Venus 05:24 12:30 19:36
Moon 13:24 20:14 02:52
Mars 03:46 10:01 16:17
Jupiter 05:44 12:57 20:09
Saturn 02:52 08:31 14:11
All times shown in EDT.


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

© NASA/Galileo 1993. Pictured asteroid is 243 Ida.






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