Illinois Outdoors at PrairiestateOutdoors.com
RulesIllinois Outdoors at PrairiestateOutdoors.com

Prairie State Outdoors Categories

Top Story :: Opinion :: Illinois Outdoor News :: Fishing News :: Hunting News :: Birding News :: Nature Stories :: Miscellaneous News :: Fishing :: Big Fish Fridays :: Big Fish Stories :: State Fishing Reports :: Other Fishing Reports :: Fishing Tips, Tactics & Tales :: Where to Fish :: Fishing Calendar :: Hunting :: Hunting Reports :: Hunting Tips, Tactics & Tales :: Where to Hunt :: Tales from the Timber :: Turkey Tales :: Hunting Calendar :: Big Game Stories :: Nature and Birding :: Birding Bits :: Nature Newsbits :: Critter Corner :: Birding Calendar :: Stargazing :: In the Wild :: Miscellaneous Reports and Shorts :: Links :: Hunting Links :: Birding Links :: Video ::

Big Buck Stories

1960s :: 1980s :: 1991-92 :: 1992-93 :: 1993-94 :: 1994-95 :: 1995-96 :: 1997-98 :: 1998-99 :: 1999-2000 :: 2000-01 :: 2001-02 :: 2003-04 :: 2004-05 :: 2005-06 :: 2006-07 :: 2007-08 :: 2008-09 :: 2009-10 :: 2010-11 :: 2011-12 :: 2012-13 ::

Scattershooting

Flathead's Picture of the Week :: Big bucks :: Birdwatching :: Cougars :: Dogs :: Critters :: Fishing :: Asian carp :: Bass :: Catfish :: Crappie :: Ice :: Muskie :: Humor :: Hunting :: Deer :: Ducks :: Geese :: Turkey :: Upland game :: Misc. :: Mushrooms :: Open Blog Thursday :: Picture A Day 2010 :: Plants and trees :: Politics :: Prairie :: Scattershooting :: Tales from the Trail Cams :: Wild Things ::


Print
Illinois hunting and fishing

Photo by 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. (Chart based on one in the Feb. 2010 Sky & Telescope magazine)

‘Space potato’ visible with binoculars

January 20, 2010 at 08:39 AM

GATEHOUSE NEWS SERVICE

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.

This huge space rock isn’t one of those astronomers are concerned could one day crash into the Earth. Its orbit is safely away from us, like all nice asteroids should be.

The February Sky & Telescope magazine has a good article about Vesta’s current passage, with a chart showing where it may be seen night to night. Looking just like a +7th or +6th magnitude star, it reveals itself as an asteroid by careful observing in a telescope through the night, or with binoculars from night to night. It is slowly making its way through the constellation Leo the Lion and heading for a near “miss” of a prominent, +2nd magnitude star, Gamma Leonis (also called Algeiba).

Of course the asteroid isn’t about to hit the star. The constellation is a far away back drop. On the average, Vesta orbits the Sun 223 million miles out, and at its closest to Earth, is “only” around 130 million miles from your backyard. Gamma Leonis is approximately 126 light years away- that’s 748 TRILLION miles.

Vesta averages approximately 329 miles wide. At last, a distance we can fathom! Vesta would fit nicely between Honesdale, Pa., (in the far northeast) and Pittsburgh (southwest).

The asteroid was the fourth one discovered, so is catalogued as 4-Vesta. German astronomer Heinrich Wilhelm Olbers detected it on March 29, 1807. He allowed the eminent mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss to name the asteroid. Vesta is named for the Roman goddess of home and hearth. Gauss computed an orbit based on Olbers’ observations of its path. Gauss was able to compute an orbit in only 10 hours time.

The first asteroid found was Ceres, in 1801. This was followed by Pallas and Juno, before Vesta was discovered. After this charter members in the club of known asteroids, the fifth asteroid was not found until 38 years later. Today we know of many thousands; most orbit between Mars and Jupiter, but there are some that loop by Earth.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the four largest asteroids were the first four discovered.

Vesta appears at best as a fuzzy blob in pictures taken by the Hubble Space Telescope or by special “adaptive optics” from ground-based observatories, that counter the wobble of our atmospheric turbulence. In September 2007, NASA launched the ambitious Dawn Mission, a probe that is on its way to Vesta as we speak (well, as I write and you read). Dawn is scheduled to orbit Vesta from 2011 to 2012, Watch for nice-close ups of this cosmic baked potato. The spacecraft then launch out again, visiting Ceres in 2015.

An enormous crater has been detected on Vesta, from an impact long ago. There are a certain class of meteorites discovered on Earth that are suspected to have come from Vesta. They have matching geologic properties.

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. Like Alan MacRobert in Sky & Telescope said, Vesta will be “threading a needle.”

Vesta is the brightest asteroid and at times is just visible to unaided eyes. Nearby in the sky, however, is much more brilliant Mars, magnitude -1.2 and close to Leo. See also bright Jupiter low in the west-southwest in evening twilight. The crescent moon passes by Jupiter on Jan. 17 and 18. The moon reaches first quarter on the 23rd.

Contact the writer at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Keep looking up!

Your CommentsComments :: Terms :: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Comment Area Pool Rules

  1. Read our Terms of Service.
  2. You must be a member. :: Register here :: Log In
  3. Keep it clean.
  4. Stay on topic.
  5. Be civil, honest and accurate.
  6. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Log In

Register as a new member

Next entry: Man sentenced in stolen artifacts case

Previous entry: Fish kills on the mind of pond owners

Log Out

RSS & Atom Feeds

Prairie State Outdoors
PSO on Facebook
Promote Your Page Too

News Archives

May 2017
S M T W T F S
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30 31      
Copyright © 2007-2014 GateHouse Media, Inc.
Some Rights Reserved
Original content available for non-commercial use
under a Creative Commons license, except where noted.
Creative Commons