Observing Ceres in the Night Sky
The dwarf planet Ceres reached opposition in May but remains conveniently placed in the evening sky this month.
Ceres’ name is related to the word “cereal”, as both arise from the Greek Goddess of Agriculture. Originally considered the missing planet between Mars and Jupiter after its discovery by Giuseppe Piazzi (in 1801), Ceres was downgraded to an asteroid soon afterwards, and then upgraded to Dwarf Planet status in 2006 – at the same time Pluto was demoted to join the same family as Ceres.
This week, Ceres will be slowly moving eastward above the bright, reddish star Antares in Scorpius. With a visual magnitude of 8.9, Ceres will be readily seen in backyard telescopes. Binoculars will work, too – once the bright moon leaves the scene, the lucky ones with should be able to spot it through binoculars. Ceres is located about degrees (4 finger widths) to the upper right (or celestial north) of Antares.
On Thursday night, it will pass very close above a double star named p Ophiuchi. That star is visible to unaided eyes.