Vesta Near Saturn | 3 Views

Movement of Vesta and Saturn

I posted recently about my first view of the protoplanet and 2nd largest asteroid 4 Vesta. Later, on 23 Aug 2018, I managed to get an image of dim Vesta. With a magnitude of +6.5 at this time, it is not quite visible to my naked eye even under the best viewing conditions. It does show in binoculars. For comparison, Jupiter and Mars now have magnitudes of -1.8, and -1.2 respectively. They are bright. Here is a table of magnitudes of other objects.

At about 8 pm on 23 Sep, 26 Sep, and 4 Oct, the sky was dark with good seeing. Saturn was in a pattern of stars I could easily see. I knew Vesta was somewhere below Saturn. Below is the broad view using desktop software. South and southwest are labeled along the horizon at the bottom. Scorpius is at lower right. Sagittarius is in the center. The 2nd image is the zoomed-in view of the box in the center. Click for more detail.

On each of the three nights, I set my Canon SX60 on a tripod with ISO 3200 and 1 sec shutter. I zoomed to the size of the box above. A 10 sec timer let vibrations damp out. Photo software allowed adjustments to brightness and contrast in order to superimpose the 3 images. Stars are so far away they didn’t appear to move. Saturn and Vesta appeared to move since they are much closer to Earth. Vesta, closer in solar orbit than Saturn, moved fastest. Vesta was barely visible in the images even with enhancement. It is marked with dates. Saturn was a blob of light due to being over-exposed. I was pleased with the results. Best viewed on a monitor. Click to enlarge.

Dawn at Vesta and Ceres

Both Vesta and the largest protoplanet Ceres have been visited by the same ion-powered spacecraft DAWN in 2011 and 2015 respectively. The following videos highlight the findings at each.

DAWN is in the 2nd extension of the mission and is going to remain in orbit around Ceres. Marc Rayman is Chief Engineer and Mission Director. Carol Raymond is Principal Investigator. They offer commentary about the mission to these large neighbors.

3 thoughts on “Vesta Near Saturn | 3 Views

  1. Very fine post Jim! Impressive zoom, and knowledge of the operator to find such a dim heavenly body. Seeing the movement over a period of days gives it away. It was my intention to go out tonight to try and spot some Draconids, however the weather is refusing to cooperate.

    • I hope you get to see those meteors. No chance of it here. We’ve had about 6” of rain in the past week. It isn’t over yet.

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