2016 June 6
Asteroid Flora on display
On the evening of Saturday June 11 (this coming weekend) the main-belt asteroid 8 Flora will lie close to a mag 6 star in Ophiuchus, providing an ideal opportunity to track down this little rocky body. Flora, the seventh brightest asteroid, was discovered by John Russell Hind (also known for his discovery of the variable nebula that is named after him) on 1847 October 18. Two months previously he had discovered the asteroid 7 Iris.
Although only appearing as a mag 9.3 point of light (it is estimated to have a mean diameter of around 128km) Flora should be easily visible in a small telescope lying just 18 arcmin south south-east of star HIP 84792 (Hipparcos Catalogue Number). From central England Flora will lie due south around midnight UTC about 18 degrees above the horizon at position RA 17h 21m 31s and Declination -18 deg 1 min 20 sec. The co-ordinates of the nearby mag 6 star are RA 17h 19m 53.4s and Declination -17 deg 45 min 23.6 sec.
The chart below shows the position of Flora (as a square blob) relative to the mag 6 star and the two globular clusters M9 and NGC 6356. North is up and west to the right on the chart.
Asteroid Flora achieved fame (or perhaps notoriety) in 1968 when it featured in the science-fiction film The Green Slime. If you don’t know the plot of this film see this link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Green_Slime.
If you fail to locate Flora all is not lost as you can still enjoy M9 which lies only 0.5 degrees away to the south south-west. And of course Saturn, just a few days past opposition, is also on display 8 degrees to the west.