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PostPosted: Wed Jan 04, 2017 4:01 pm 
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Joined: Sun Nov 13, 2011 4:39 pm
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Location: Gilford Park
Vest reaches opposition on January 17, 2017

http://freestarcharts.com/phenomena-thi ... ry-17-2017

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The asteroid starts December moving retrograde in Cancer and remains there through opposition until it crosses into Gemini on January 19th. It's visible just after sunset in December and remains so for the rest of the night. In January, Vesta is effectively visible all night long, rising in the east at sunset and setting in the west as the Sun reappears on the opposite side of the sky. However, from about January 11th to 15th the bright Moon nearby will somewhat interfere with observations.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2017 12:32 pm 
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Thanks for the reminder!

I generally follow the brighter asteroids (1) Ceres and (4) Vesta, as well as the dimmer planets Uranus and Neptune, with binoculars every year. I always find it fascinating to see star-like objects move against the starry background sky. Of course, you can do that with the "regular" planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars Jupiter and Saturn) too, but they don't look star-like, they're often bright enough to wash out nearby background stars and/or don't really get out of twilight, so the background stars aren't visible.

Anyway, I've been lax about Vesta and Ceres this season, so prompted by Chris' post, I stepped out front about 10:15 pm EST on Wednesday evening (January 4, 2017) with my 10x50 binoculars for a look. Vesta was roughly midway between Pollux and M44 (the Beehive Cluster), although the latter is not visible naked eye from my suburban location, so I used Castor and Pollux as a guide to finding M44 in the binoculars. Vesta was fairly easy to pinpoint by following patterns of stars from M44, based on a SkyTools chart I prepared. The linked chart is satisfactory for locating Vesta, but I prefer to have a chart populated with more background stars to make sure I'm actually looking at the right object.

Now for the fun part -- seeing Vesta's movement on the coming nights. Based on the Clear Sky Chart, it looks like Saturday will be the next opportunity. By then, the nice rectangle Vesta formed along with the nominal 6th magnitude stars HD 68543 and Mu-1 & Mu-2 Cancri on Wednesday night will become a distorted trapezoid.

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