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.
ESA and NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, or SOHO, saw a bright comet plunge toward the Sun on 3-4 August 2016, at nearly 1.3 million miles per hour. The comet, first spotted by SOHO on 1 August, is part of the Kreutz family of comets, a group with related orbits that broke off of a huge comet several centuries ago.
One month after its capture into orbit around Ceres, NASA engineers working on the Dawn mission state that the spacecraft is performing flawlessly and about to start capturing optical navigation images on April 10th.
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has continued its survey of the dwarf planet Ceres this year, discovering rock-bound ice hidden just beneath the airless world’s rugged surface and a handful of icy outcrops inside craters in the northern hemisphere, raising hopes that Ceres could have once held a buried habitable ocean of liquid water.