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.
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, almost out of fuel for maintaining its orientation and aiming its antenna toward Earth, is nearing the end of its life after a trail-blazing 11-year mission orbiting the asteroid Vesta and the dwarf planet Ceres.
Observers in the British Isles with a clear sky one hour after sunset on 24 August should find a location that offers an unobstructed view of the south-southwest horizon. Here you will see first-magnitude star Antares in the constellation Scorpius, Mars and Saturn all in a line easily encompassed by low-power binoculars in the bright twilight.
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has spotted a small, dark moon orbiting Makemake, the second brightest icy dwarf planet — after Pluto — in the Kuiper Belt. The moon, provisionally designated S/2015 (136472) 1 and nicknamed MK 2, is estimated to be 100 miles in diameter. Makemake and its moon are more than 50 times farther away than Earth is from the Sun.