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RE: Vesta
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Date: 1:20 GMT, 17th February, 2010.


The most prominent asteroid in the sky is currently yours for the perusing with binoculars -- and perhaps even the naked eye.
Tomorrow night, Wednesday, Feb. 17, Vesta, the second most massive object in the asteroid belt, reaches what astronomers like to call "opposition." An asteroid (or planet or comet) is said to be "in opposition" when it is opposite to the sun as seen from Earth. In other words, if you were to stand outside with the sun directly above you at high noon, Vesta would be directly below your feet some 211,980,000 kilometres
away. With Vesta at opposition, the asteroid is at its closest point to Earth in its orbit.

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Asteroid Vesta at magnitude 6.1 is located between Gamma Leonis (magnitude 2.5) and 40 Leonis (magnitude 4.8).

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Visible throughout all February, Vesta will brighten to a 6.1 magnitude in mid-month, making it just visible to the naked eye from dark enough locations. With a pair of binoculars the asteroid is pretty easy to see.
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Asteroid 4 Vesta at magnitude 6.2 will occult the magnitude 9.7 star BD+19 2338 in the constellation Leo at 17:15 UT, 10th February, 2010.
The 49.7 second event is visible from Australia, Indonesia, SE Asia, India and Arabia.

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Position (2000): RA 10 25 31.6097, Dec +18 45 08.625

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Vesta will be positioned right beside the bright star named Algieba (Gamma Leonis) on the night of closest approach, making identification much easier. Algieba is a famous naked-eye double star near the even brighter star Regulus in the head of Leo the Lion. On the night of Feb. 16, Vesta will be positioned smack dab between the two components of this naked-eye double star. Vesta will be the faintest of the three objects but not by much. Looking the night before and the night after will help clinch the identification because of the asteroids slow motion relative to the two stars. Algieba will be located due east and about a third of the way up in the sky at 8 p.m. Feb. 16. The orange-coloured planet Mars will be shining brightly a little more than a hand-span above Algieba and Vesta.
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Astronomers have learned that Vesta reflects 25 percent of all sunlight falling onto its surface, and this accounts for its relatively great brightness (the moon, by comparison, reflects only 12 percent). As a result, Vesta holds the distinction of being the brightest of all asteroids, occasionally appearing to binoculars or even the unaided eye from a dark rural site. Right now is one of those times - a time known as Vesta's "opposition."
Opposition, as regular readers of this column might recall, is a time when a solar system body appears opposite in the sky from the sun.

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Finding Vesta
Peter Becker

The asteroid Vesta may be seen moving through the constellation Leo the Lion. Leo is visible low in the east in mid-January, between 8 and 9 p.m., and is higher in the sky as night progresses. Bright reddish Mars is just off the chart to the right. Look for bright star Regulus, and the "backward question mark" of stars extending from Regulus. With binoculars, watch Vesta as it passes between the stars Gamma and 40 Leonis, next month.

Source



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Potato-shaped asteroid Vesta will soon be bright enough that you can actually (but barely) see it with unaided eyes, if you are in dark, rural location and have a good star chart. It is easy to see with binoculars, and is in the eastern sky this evening.
Binocular users can watch Vesta gradually move through Leo, passing close to Gamma Leonis on the evenings on February 16 and 17. In fact, it will pass tightly between Gamma and a +5th magnitude star, 40 Leonis.

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Ed ~ On the 20th February, 2010, the asteroid Vesta will be at opposition (See previous posts).


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Asteroid (4) Vesta
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Asteroid (4) Vesta

Magnitude:        7.1
Phase:             19 °
Distance:          1.7374 AU
Solar Distance:  2.4392 AU

Position(2000): RA  10h41m26.54s, Dec:+14°15'12.6"

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