Thursday 2 July 2020

Asteroid 532 Herculina reaches opposition.

Asteroid 532 Herculina will reach opposition (the point at which it is directly opposite the Sun when observed from the Earth) at 7.10 am GMT on Friday 3 July 2020, when it will also be at the closest point on its orbit to the Earth, 1.729 AU (i.e. 1.729 times as far from the Earth as the Sun, or about 258 655 000 km), and be completely illuminated by the Sun. While it is not obvious to the naked eye observer, asteroids have phases just like those of the Moon; being further from the Sun than the Earth, 532 Herculina is 'full' when directly opposite the Sun. As 532 Herculina is only about 225 km in diameter, it will not be visible to the naked eye, but with a maximum Apparent Magnitude (luminosity) of 9.5 at opposition, it should be visible in the Constellation of Sagittarius to viewers equipped with a good pair of binoculars or small telescope.

 The position of 532 Herculina at opposition. Heavens Above.

532 Herculina was discovered on 20 April 1904 by the German astronomer Max Wolf, as originally given the designation 1904 NY, which implies that it was discovered in 1904 and was the 324th asteroid (asteroid NY) discovered after the introduction of a double-lettered designation system introduced in January 1893 (in which AA equalled 1, AB equalled 2, BA equalled 25 etc.). It was later named 'Herculina' by Wolf and given the designation 532, for the 532nd asteroid ever discovered. 

The orbit of 532 Herculina, and its position at opposition in 2020. JPL Small Body Database.

532 Herculina has an 1686 day orbital period and an eccentric orbit tilted at an angle of 16.3° to the plane of the Solar System, which takes it from 2.28 AU from the Sun (i.e. 228% of the the average distance at which the Earth orbits the Sun) to 3.26 AU from the Sun (i.e. 326% of the average distance at which the Earth orbits the Sun). As an asteroid that never comes within 1.666 AU of the Sun and has an average orbital distance less than 3.2 AU from the Sun, 532 Herculina is classed as a Main Belt Asteroid. 

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