(*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.
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.|
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|