Star map showing the track of asteroid Vesta during its period of naked-eye visibility from April to July 2007. Positions are marked at 10-day intervals. Vesta reached opposition on May 30th, when it shone at an apparent magnitude of +5.4 in the constellation of Ophiuchus; it was discernible to the naked eye from dark sites through to early July, and was easily visible in binoculars from elsewhere. It was the first time in seven years that Vesta had appeared so bright, and it would not be any brighter until the year 2018.
The position of Jupiter is also shown for the same period; the brilliant white planet provided an ideal beacon to help in locating the asteroid, whose apparent motion across the sky was discernible in the space of just a few days.
Vesta - named after the Roman goddess of the hearth - was the initial destination for NASA's Dawn mission, which launched in September 2007 and entered orbit around the asteroid in July 2011.
The above diagram shows the view as seen from the Northern hemisphere - for the Southern hemisphere view, click here. Printer-friendly versions of the starmap are available for Northern and Southern hemisphere views.
Copyright Martin J Powell January 2007