Sky & Telescope - May 2024 - 50

MAY 2024 OBSERVING
Celestial Calendar
With a diameter of about 512 kiloPallas
Skirts Hercules
THIS SPRING AND SUMMER take the
opportunity to spend time with a pair
of small, solar system bodies chanced
upon by German astronomer Heinrich
Olbers: 2 Pallas and Comet 13P/Olbers.
Its prefix tells us that Pallas was the
second asteroid discovered - today we
know of more than one million. Olbers
found the starlike object on March 28,
1802, and christened it Pallas, another
name for Athena, the Greek goddess
of wisdom. Olbers' comet shares the
sky with his minor planet and glows
around 9th magnitude low in the
northwest at dusk. We'll have more to
say about that object in the June issue
when its brightness peaks.
The same year Olbers found Pallas,
English chemist William Wollaston
discovered the silvery, metallic element
palladium, which he named after the
recently discovered asteroid. In this
roundabout way Pallas has a home in
your car's catalytic converter. Working
together with platinum and rhodium, it
scrubs exhaust clean of harmful byproducts.
With a water-rich composition
similar to the dwarf planet Ceres and
carbonaceous chondrite meteorites, the
asteroid itself likely has few exotic metals.
meters, Pallas is the third-largest minor
planet. It circles the Sun every 4.6 years
in an orbit inclined by 35°. On its May
19th opposition, the asteroid shines at
9th magnitude in western Hercules.
Beta Herculis, at magnitude 2.8, makes
a fine naked-eye reference for pinning
down the asteroid's location as it
rambles northwestward in retrograde
motion. Late in the month it crosses
into neighboring Corona Borealis.
Pallas has a rather eccentric orbit
that causes its opposition distance
to vary from about 1.3 to 2.6 astronomical
units. At perihelic opposition,
which next occurs in March 2028, it
will shine at magnitude 6.6 - tantalizingly
close to the naked-eye limit. At a
distant opposition the asteroid glimmers
three magnitudes fainter. While
this year's isn't a particularly close
opposition, you'll have no trouble using
big binoculars or a small telescope to
ride along with Pallas.
Juno
Vesta
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
15
13
11
9
7
5
Pallas
6210
29
27
25
23
21
19
Ceres
The first four asteroids were discovered
between 1801 and 1807, and
range from 940 to 254 kilometers (584
to 158 miles) in diameter. All reside in
the main asteroid belt between Mars
and Jupiter but are bright enough to
spot in almost any telescope.
50 MAY 2024 * SKY & TELESCOPE
17
s
Apr 15
Σ2052
16h 40m
16h 30m
U
γ
16h 20m
16h 10m
+18°
+20°
β
Kornephoros
+22°
3
May 1
HERCULES
π
+24°
RU
CORONA
BOREALIS
19
17
21
23
25 27 29 31
June 2
+26°
+28°
4 6 8 10 12 14 16
P
a
h
t
o
2
f
P
a
a
s
ll
Star magnitudes
CERES AND VESTA: NASA / JPL-CALTECH / UCLA / MPS / DLR / IDA; JUNO: VSO VLT SPHERE / ZIMPOL TEAM; PALLAS: ESO / VERNAZZA

Sky & Telescope - May 2024

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Sky & Telescope - May 2024

Contents
Sky & Telescope - May 2024 - Cover1
Sky & Telescope - May 2024 - Cover2
Sky & Telescope - May 2024 - 1
Sky & Telescope - May 2024 - Contents
Sky & Telescope - May 2024 - 3
Sky & Telescope - May 2024 - 4
Sky & Telescope - May 2024 - 5
Sky & Telescope - May 2024 - 6
Sky & Telescope - May 2024 - 7
Sky & Telescope - May 2024 - 8
Sky & Telescope - May 2024 - 9
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Sky & Telescope - May 2024 - Cover3
Sky & Telescope - May 2024 - Cover4
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