April 09, 2010
Photographer: Greg Parker
Summary Author: Greg Parker; Jim Foster
The photo above features the asteroid Vesta as viewed on a clear and mostly moonless February night from the New Forest Observatory in Hampshire, U.K. Vesta is the “rod of light” at upper center, shown here exiting the constellation Leo the Lion. It’s the brightest asteroid and the second most massive; having an estimated mass of nine percent of the all the asteroids in the asteroid belt. Vesta, like most asteroids, is more oblong than spherical. Its mean diameter is 329 mi (530 km) -- approximately fifteen percent of the Moon’s diameter. Discovered in 1807, well before Neptune and Pluto, it’s named after the Roman virgin Goddess of home and hearth. The dazzling object at left center is the star Algieba; the third brightest star in Leo.
Photo details: 46 sub-exposures at 200-seconds per sub using the Hyperstar III lens; C11 Schmidt-Cassehrain telescope.