© NASA/New Horizons

134340 Pluto at opposition

Dominic Ford, Editor
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The sky at

134340 Pluto will reach opposition, when it lies opposite to the Sun in the sky. Lying in the constellation Capricornus, 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 23:25 and 03:19. It will become accessible around 23:25, when it rises to an altitude of 21° above your south-eastern horizon. It will reach its highest point in the sky at 01:22, 27° above your southern horizon. It will become inaccessible around 03:19 when it sinks below 21° above your south-western horizon.

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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:


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, 134340 Pluto orbits much further out in the solar system than the Earth – at an average distance from the Sun of 39.82 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.

A chart of the path of 134340 Pluto across the sky in 2025 can be found here, and a chart of its rising and setting times here.

At the moment of opposition, 134340 Pluto will lie at a distance of 34.30 AU, and reach a peak brightness of magnitude 15.0. Its celestial coordinates at the moment it passes opposition will be:

Object Right Ascension Declination Constellation Magnitude Angular Size
134340 Pluto 20h23m10s 23°13'S Capricornus 15.0 0.0"

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 25 July 2025
Sunrise
06:03
Sunset
20:31
Twilight ends
22:19
Twilight begins
04:15

1-day old moon
Waxing Crescent

2%

1 day old

Planets
Rise Culm. Set
Mercury 07:08 13:53 20:37
Venus 03:12 10:30 17:47
Moon 06:44 14:09 21:24
Mars 10:12 16:27 22:43
Jupiter 04:18 11:42 19:06
Saturn 23:08 05:05 11:03
All times shown in EDT.

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.

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25 Jul 2025  –  134340 Pluto at opposition
27 Jul 2026  –  134340 Pluto at opposition
29 Jul 2027  –  134340 Pluto at opposition
30 Jul 2028  –  134340 Pluto at opposition

Image credit

© NASA/New Horizons

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