Asteroid 18 Melpomene at opposition

2019 Jul 2

Asteroid 18 Melpomene will be well placed for observation, lying in the constellation Scutum, well above the horizon for much of the night.

Regardless of your location on the Earth, 18 Melpomene will reach its highest point in the sky at around midnight local time.

From London, it will be visible all night. It will become visible at around 23:34 (BST) as the dusk sky fades, 26° above your south-eastern horizon. It will be lost to dawn twilight at around 02:28, 26° above your south-western horizon.

The geometry of the alignment

This optimal positioning occurs when it makes its closest approach to the point in the sky directly opposite to the Sun – an event termed opposition. Since the Sun reaches its greatest distance below the horizon at midnight, the point opposite to it is highest in the sky at the same time.

At around the same time that 18 Melpomene passes opposition, it also makes its closest approach to the Earth – termed its perigee – making it appear at its brightest in the night sky. This happens because when 18 Melpomene lies opposite to the Sun in the night sky, the solar system is lined up so that 18 Melpomene, the Earth and the Sun lie in a straight line with the Earth in the middle, on the same side of the Sun as 18 Melpomene.

On this occasion, 18 Melpomene will pass within 1.271 AU of us, reaching a peak brightness of magnitude 9.2. Nonetheless, even at its brightest, 18 Melpomene is a faint object beyond the reach of the naked eye or binoculars; a telescope of moderate aperture and a good star chart are needed.

Finding 18 Melpomene

The star charts below mark the path of 18 Melpomene across the sky around the time of its opposition.

This star chart is also available to download:

Light-on-dark PNG image PDF document
Dark-on-light PNG image PDF document

The exact position of 18 Melpomene at the moment of opposition will be as follows:

Object Right Ascension Declination Constellation Magnitude
Asteroid 18 Melpomene 18h37m40s -09°01' Scutum 9.2

The coordinates above are given in J2000.0.

This entry in the observing calendar was provided by