Observing

Let Saturn be your guide to finding asteroid Vesta at its brightest

8 June 2018 Ade Ashford

Many of you may have tracked down an asteroid with binoculars or a telescope, but have you ever seen one with the naked eye? If not, then June presents you with an opportunity to see the brightest, 1 Vesta, at a close opposition. What’s more, ringed planet Saturn lies close by to act as a convenient guide.

Observing

See bright near-Earth asteroid 2017 VR12 pass close to star Spica, 7–8 March

4 March 2018 Ade Ashford

Possibly as large as The Shard in London, Apollo asteroid 2017 VR12 passes just 3¾ lunar distances from Earth at 7:53am GMT on 7 March. For a few nights, this magnitude +12 space rock is a viable target for small backyard telescopes as it gallops through Coma Berenices and Virgo, passing just 0.8 degrees from Spica on the UK night of 7–8 March.

Observing

See dwarf planet Ceres at opposition on 31 January

26 January 2018 Ade Ashford

While antipodean observers are enjoying views of the totally eclipsed Blue Moon in Cancer the Crab on the night of 31 January/1 February, Northern Hemisphere observers should look out for magnitude +6.9 1 Ceres at opposition in the northern fringes of the same constellation. The dwarf planet puts on a good show in the dark of the Moon during February.

Observing

Best ever Geminid meteor shower around 14 December?

11 December 2017 Ade Ashford

Could we be in for a bumper crop of Geminid meteors just before the middle of December? There’s a good chance that we will given that their parent body, the mysterious crumbly “rock comet” 3200 Phaethon, is also making a close flyby of Earth this month.

Observing

See asteroid Phaethon, source of the Geminids, in a close brush with Earth

4 December 2017 Ade Ashford

As shooting-star devotees prepare for the naked-eye spectacle of the Geminid meteor shower in mid-December, owners of small telescopes can also witness the close passage of the meteors’ parent body — a curious “rock comet” known as 3200 Phaethon, galloping through the constellations of Auriga, Perseus, Andromeda, Pisces and Pegasus at a rate of up to 15 degrees/day.