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PostPosted: Sun Jun 03, 2018 10:45 pm 
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Joined: Thu Oct 13, 2011 12:53 pm
Posts: 290
Location: Maple Shade, NJ
On Tuesday, June 19, 2018, the asteroid, or minor planet if you prefer, (4) Vesta will reach opposition at 4:16 pm EDT. What's special about this opposition is that Vesta will be relatively close to earth and become as bright as magnitude 5.3 for a few days, well within the range of visibility with unaided eyes from a dark site. However, its position in Sagittarius means that it will only be about 30° altitude when it transits the meridian for an observer at 40°N latitude.

I have seen Vesta with unaided eyes once before, at 2 am EDT on April 6, 2014, from Batsto in the NJ Pines. It was a week before opposition, already at its magnitude 5.8 peak, and 52° altitude. It was in the same binocular field as (1) Ceres (magnitude 7.0) 2.5° away. Bright Mars (magnitude -1.4) was 11.5° away, so I had to block its glare with my outstretched hand.

I prepared an ephemeris (using the U.S. Naval Observatory's MICA software) showing among other things, Vesta's magnitude from May 20 through July 18, 2018 (Vesta will be at magnitude 6 or brighter during that period).

Bob King has a nice online article at Sky & Telescope discussing this upcoming opposition of Vesta, along with finder charts.

Joe Stieber

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