Wednesday, February 17, 2010
NASA has reminded us that Vesta is now at opposition, and thus about as easy to see with binoculars as it ever gets. I'm in the centre of Seoul so no luck for me, but if you're in a more rural area you might want to try your luck. A post from late 2008 here mentioned the upcoming date, though note that the distance this time (about 1.4 AU) is not as close as the one in 2007 (1.15 AU) when Hubble captured the most detailed image we have of the asteroid to date. However, last year a new camera was installed on the HST (Wide Field Camera 3) which has improved the telescope by quite a bit, as can be seen in this image here comparing a photograph of a nebula made before and after. I don't know if Hubble is slated to observe Vesta again at this time but given the new camera it would be worth doing.
The next time Vesta will be at opposition will be next year in August, though that will be just one month before Dawn arrives and we are able to see it close up for the first time. You can see Dawn's current location here and the most recent update here. It's still moving slowly away from Mars and approaching Vesta bit by bit. 500+ days to go.