Dwarf planet Ceres is at opposition today, which means it is directly opposite the Sun in the sky. It therefore rises at sunset and sets at sunrise and is visible throughout the entire night. Unfortunately, it’s not well placed for observation this year as it’s hiding amongst the fainter stars of Sagittarius.
Discovered by Giuseppe Piazzi on January 1st 1801, it was initially thought to be a new planet but subsequent discoveries of other small worlds over the next few years led to a new category of solar system object being created: the asteroids. Ceres was known to be the largest but it was reclassified again as a dwarf planet (along with Pluto) in 2006.
In March 2015, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft became the first probe to orbit and investigate Ceres at close range. It is currently spiraling into a lower obit but has already returned some fascinating images of the surface.
If you want to try your luck at spotting the dwarf planet, you’ll need at least a pair of binoculars or a small telescope to see this tiny world. Using Psi and Omega Capricornii might be a good starting point for your search, but look carefully as it only ever appears as a star-like point and may be easily confused with the stars in the area.
Map courtesy of Mobile Observatory. Photograph taken by the Dawn spacecraft at a distance of 8,400 miles. (Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)
05:10 UT – The waxing gibbous Moon passes Antares. (Naked eye, Scorpius, evening sky.)
09:19 UT – Dwarf planet Ceres is at opposition. (Magnitude 7.3. Sagittarius, all night.)
The open star cluster M29 culminates at midnight tonight. (Magnitude 7.1. Cygnus, all night.)
Events in bold involve objects and/or events that are visible with the naked eye.
All times are in Universal Time (UTC). To convert the time to your timezone, click here.
2015: An Astronomical Year
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