Sunday, 7 September 2014

Asteroid 12 Victoria at opposition.

Asteroid 12 Victoria will reach opposition (i.e. will be directly opposite the Sun seen from Earth) at 0.07 am (seven minutes past midnight) GMT on Tuesday 9 September 2014. This means that it will both be at its closest to the Earth this year, about 0.909 AU (0.909 times the average distance between the Earth and the Sun, or about 136 000 000 km), and completely illuminated by the Sun. While it is not visible to the naked eye observer, asteroids have phases just like those of the Moon; being further from the Sun than the Earth, 12 Victoria is 'full' when directly opposite the Sun. Even at its very brightest 12 Victoria is never visible to the naked eye, or even binoculars; it will take a fairly good telescope, and a degree of skill and determination to observe this object.

The orbit and position of 12 Victoria. JPL Small Body Database Browser.

12 Victoria was discovered on 13 September 1850 by John Russell Hind. The name indicates that it was the twelfth asteroid ever discovered, as well as honouring Queen Victoria (technically it was named after the Roman goddess of victory, but the real intention was easily spotted, causing some controversy at the time, as celestial bodies were not meant to be named after living persons). It is a Main Belt Asteroid, 127 km in diameter, with a 1302 day orbital period and an eccentric orbit tilted at 8° to the plain of the Solar System, that takes it from 1.82-2.85 AU from the Sun (1.82-2.85 times as far from the Earth as the Sun, always considerably beyond the orbit of Mars).

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