asteroid 4 Vesta is at its brightest now.
The small world
is near opposition (opposite the Sun in the sky)
and closest to Earth.
But even at its brightest,
is just too faint to spot with the naked-eye.
Still, over the next few days it will be relatively easy to
find in the constellation Leo, sharing a typical binocular field of
view with bright star
In fact on February 16
passed between Gamma Leonis and close neighbor on the sky 40 Leonis.
Gamma Leonis is the brightest star in these two panels, while
the second brightest star, 40 Leonis, is directy to its right.
As marked, Vesta is the third brightest "star" in the field.
Vesta shifts position between the two panels from well below 40 Leonis
on Feb. 14 to near the top of the frame from Feb. 16, shooting the gap
between the close Gamma/40 Leonis pair.
Of course, premier close-up views of the asteroid will be possible
after the ion-powered Dawn
spacecraft arrives at Vesta in August of 2011.
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