3 Asteroids Visible in Small Telescopes

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There seem to be a lot of asteroids in the news this week, counting the 3 close flybys of Earth, and the breakup observed by Hubble. I thought some of you might find it interesting that there are three asteroids you can have a look at in a small telescope that are between mag 6-8.


Pallas is currently at mag 7.1, in Hydra about 2° E of Alphard and moving N. It’s visible from early evening and doesn’t set until early morning.

Ceres and Vesta

Both rising around 9:PM tonight, Vesta is currently at mag 6.5 in Virgo, about 8° E of Mars. Ceres (which is technically a dwarf planet) is mag 7.6 in Virgo, about 3° E of Vesta. You’ll want to check your favorite planetarium software for exact current positions.
Ceres as captured by Hubble. Credit: NASA/ESA/SWRI/Cornell University/University of Maryland/STSci

Ceres as captured by Hubble. Credit: NASA/ESA/SWRI/Cornell University/University of Maryland/STSci

These images are the last in Dawn's Image of the Day series during the cruise to Dawn's second destination, Ceres. A full set of Dawn data is being archived at http://pds.nasa.gov/.

Full View of Vesta
As NASA’s Dawn spacecraft takes off for its next destination, this mosaic synthesizes some of the best views the spacecraft had of the giant asteroid Vesta. Dawn studied Vesta from July 2011 to September 2012.

All three of these asteroids will stay visible for the next few months.

Incidentally, the Dawn spacecraft is currently en-route to Ceres after visiting Vesta (see above image and caption). Dawn will rendezvous with Ceres next year. We should start getting some better images of Ceres soon!

For us observers on the ground, Ceres and Vesta will be in conjunction July 5th, only about 15′ apart, but will appear slightly dimmer than they are now, by about 1 magnitude each. Even better for astrophotographers, this will happen in the same 0.5° field of view as numerous dimmer galaxies, which should make for a nice composition!

Ceres-Vesta Conjunction on July 5th.

Ceres-Vesta Conjunction on July 5th.

I’m hoping to have a few consecutive nights to create some wider field composites showing the path of  these two asteroids. If you’d like to do the same, let me know in the comments, or on Twitter or Facebook.

Happy Asteroid Hunting!

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