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

Asteroid 471 Papagena at opposition

Dominic Ford, Editor
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The sky at

Asteroid 471 Papagena 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, 471 Papagena will reach its highest point in the sky around midnight local time.

From Cambridge, it will be visible between 18:47 and 04:10. It will become accessible around 18:47, when it rises to an altitude of 21° above your eastern horizon. It will reach its highest point in the sky at 23:29, 58° above your southern horizon. It will become inaccessible around 04:10 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 471 Papagena 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 471 Papagena lies opposite to the Sun in the night sky, the solar system is lined up so that 471 Papagena, the Earth and the Sun lie in a straight line with the Earth in the middle, on the same side of the Sun as 471 Papagena.

On this occasion, 471 Papagena will pass within 1.283 AU of us, reaching a peak brightness of magnitude 9.4. Nonetheless, even at its brightest, 471 Papagena is a faint object beyond the reach of the naked eye; binoculars or a telescope of moderate aperture are needed.

Finding 471 Papagena

The chart below indicates the path of 471 Papagena 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 471 Papagena at the moment of opposition will be as follows:

Object Right Ascension Declination Constellation Magnitude
Asteroid 471 Papagena 04h09m20s 11°13'N Taurus 9.4

The coordinates above are given in J2000.0.

The sky on 26 Nov 2030

The sky on 26 November 2030
Twilight ends
Twilight begins

1-day old moon
Waxing Crescent


1 day old

Rise Culm. Set
Mercury 08:43 13:02 17:21
Venus 07:35 12:09 16:43
Moon 08:12 12:58 17:47
Mars 01:30 07:34 13:39
Jupiter 07:01 11:43 16:25
Saturn 16:16 23:34 06:51
All times shown in EST.


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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