Asteroid Hits Primetime Viewing

Written by The Night Sky Guy on September 21, 2009 – 1:00 pm -

Click to enlarge;Courtesy of NASA

Click to enlarge;Courtesy of NASA

The 10th largest asteroid known will be making a bright appearance in the nighttime skies this week. Whirling around the Sun between the planets Mars and Jupiter, inside the asteroid belt, Juno is a state sized rock that measures about 234 km wide – that’s about one-tenth the size of our Moon.  Tonight, September 21st it will be the brightest as it makes its closest pass to Earth at about 180 million km away, making Juno clearly visible through even binoculars  at magnitude 7.6. According to the NASA website, “On or before Sept. 21, look for Juno near midnight a few degrees east of the brighter glow of Uranus and in the constellation Pisces. It will look like a gray dot in the sky, and each night at the end of September, it will appear slightly more southwest of its location the night before. By Sept. 25, it will be closer to the constellation Aquarius and best seen before midnight.” Sky and Telescope offers a more detailed skychart of Juno’s path across the sky here (PDF file)

So head outside tonight or the next few days, cause there won’t be a better chance to spot Juno for a while. In fact this will be its brightest appearance until 2018!  Good luck asteroid hunting!

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