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.
When Pluto was reclassified as a dwarf planet in 2006, Neptune regained the title of the solar system’s outermost planet. Since this fascinating gas giant reached opposition on 1 September in the constellation Aquarius, now is a great time to seek it out. We show you how to locate Neptune with binoculars and small telescopes.
Images just sent back to Earth this week of Pluto’s tiny moon tiny Kerberos taken by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft complete the family portrait of Pluto’s moons. Kerberos has a double-lobed shape suggesting that it could have been formed by the merger of two smaller objects. It also appears to be smaller than scientists expected and has a highly-reflective surface, counter to predictions prior to the Pluto flyby in July.