Minor Planets

You too can view many minor planets in the night sky! Well, all aren't 'minor-planets' but one of a plethora of names: a minor planet, a dwarf planet, a Kuiper-belt object*, a trans-Neptunian object*, a Plutino*, a Twotino*, a scattered disk object*, an Oort Cloud object*, a protoplanet, an asteroid*, and more! I have a blog dedicated to them, but it's not finished and won't be for a while.

(*Don't try to view these! They are simply too far away for the regular telescope. Even astronomers in the huge telescope observatories have a hard time viewing them...)

The easiest objects to locate now is minor planet 1 Ceres, and asteroid/protoplanet 4 Vesta. Sky&Telescope has provided an enchanting way to view them - here's what I've got!

Viewing 1 Ceres and 4 Vesta through the rest of 2011

I would like to make note, all visuals here are from Sky&Telescope; thank you for your charts.The two brightest and most massive objects in the asteroid belt come alive in the night sky: just for you to view. Currently in 2011, Vesta (which is now being visited by Dawn) is in Capricornus, continuing it's 3.6 year orbit in the asteroid belt. Ceres, on the other hand, takes longer to orbit at 4.6 years and is about 1 and one half constellations to the east, on the Aquarius/Cetus borderline. 2012 brings these objects into Taurus, where Mars sits now (July 20).

To view these asteroids, Vesta will be up all night (especially around 3 am local time); but both objects will be in best view at opposition. Opposition is appropriately when an object is the highest in the night sky, as viewed from your position on earth. Vesta is in opposition August 6, and Ceres, September the 16th. Here is a good magnitude list to show you the magnitude of the object on a certain date. The object will be the brightest on opposition, as the chart reflects.

June 19.16.8
July 18.76.3
August 18.45.7
September 17.86.3
October 17.87.0
November 18.47.5
December 18.77.9

Here are some visuals to aid in the positioning of the minor planets.

Ceres' retrograde orbit lines towards the left, where Vesta's on the right. This is an image of where Ceres and Vesta will be during the year (2011).
This is where Ceres is in 2011.

This is where Vesta is in 2011.
These might be hard to view, so come to this link provided by Sky&Telescope to view them larger.

Here are pictures of Minor Planets (plus the other names) that are well known.

Asteroid 2 Pallas
Protoplanet 4 Vesta
Minor Planet 1 Ceres
Kuiper-Belt Object (KBO) 136199 Eris and moon Dysnomia
Dwarf Planet 134340 Pluto with its new four moons
Asteroid 243 Ida with moon Dactyl
Asteroid 3 Juno at different wavelengths

Kuiper Belt Object 90377 Sedna

Artist's impression of Sedna

KBO 136108 Haumea with two moons: (above) Hi'aka and (below) Namaka

KBO 136472 Makemake

KBO 50000 Quaoar (moon Weywot not visible)

Quaoar and Weywot (moon) illustration