On Sunday, 26 May at 21:17 UT, 1 Ceres, the nearest and brightest of the dwarf planets and the largest minor planet inside the orbit of Neptune, passed closest to Earth for this year. At this instant, Ceres was 1.7513 astronomical units, or 262 million kilometres (162.8 million miles) from our planet.
Ceres presently lies in the constellation of Ophiuchus, the Serpent Bearer, but the dwarf planet’s westerly motion relative to the stars carries it into Scorpius on 29 May where it resides until 22 June.Ceres reaches opposition close to 12am BST on 29 May and shines at its peak magnitude of +7.0 for 2019, fading to +7.8 by the end of June, hence it’s a comfortable binocular or small telescope target — if you know exactly where to look. Click here for a printable PDF version of the finder chart at the top of the page.
As viewed from the UK, Ceres is currently highest in the sky close to 1am BST, or by 10:30pm BST at the end of June, when the dwarf planet is just 18 degrees high in the south as seen from the centre of the British Isles.
Ceres is also occulted (hidden) by the Moon on 15 June as seen from Russia (central and east), Kazakhstan (northeast), China (north and east) and Japan.
Ceres, the largest minor planet inside the orbit of Neptune, passed closest to Earth on the evening of 22 October — the night of the last quarter Moon. With the lunar crescent now confined to the morning sky, grab your binoculars or telescope, print out some star charts from our online guide and track down the brightest of the dwarf planets while at its best.
Friday, 27 July sees the second total lunar eclipse of 2018, which also happens to be the longest of the 21st century. Observers in Antarctica, Australasia, Russia, Asia, Africa, Scandanavia, Europe, Central and Eastern South America will see the event. The Moon rises at mid-eclipse as seen from the British Isles, some 6 degrees north of Mars at opposition.
The latest spectra from New Horizons Ralph instrument reveal an abundance of methane ice, but with striking differences from place to place across the frozen surface of Pluto. Methane ice in the dwarf planet’s north polar cap is diluted in a thick, transparent slab of nitrogen ice.