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Menopausal Mother Nature

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Ceres and Aldebaran meet in early November 2021

Orangish star Aldebaran marked with dot of Ceres nearby marked.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Bob Kelly in Ardsley, New York, captured this photo of Ceres and Aldebaran on November 4, 2021. He wrote: “I read about the dwarf planet, the first asteroid to be discovered, Ceres, passing by very bright Aldebaran in early November. I hoped I could aim at and focus on bright Aldebaran so I could catch it with my Canon XS and its zoom lens. I did, with the ISO sensitivity cranked up to the highest it goes on my camera, 1600. It was a cold morning (about 1C), so I didn’t get noise from the heat of the camera.” Thank you, Bob!

Tiny Ceres, mighty Aldebaran

Dwarf planet Ceres – largest body in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter – and giant star Aldebaran are meeting up in the sky in early November 2021. Aldebaran is the brightest star in Taurus the Bull. It’s 65 light-years away. But it’s huge, some 40 times our sun’s diameter. Meanwhile, Ceres is just a little ball of rock, only about 300 miles (500 km) across. So Aldebaran shines as one of our sky’s brightest stars. And Ceres shines at the limit of visibility to the unaided eye. Yet Ceres’ sweep past Aldebaran this month drew the attention of earthly astrophotographers.

The photographers captured Ceres by looking at Aldebaran over multiple nights and noticing which nearby “star” moved in relationship to Aldebaran. That point of light is Ceres, which appears to move because it’s so much closer to us than Aldebaran. As you can see from the photos on this page – several of which show several different nights of observation – Ceres is moving. So it’s noticeable, although it’s only a dim dot compared to blazing Aldebaran.

Ceres has been been drifting through the constellation Taurus for some weeks. And some photographer friends of EarthSky caught it as it passed Aldebaran, which marks the Bull’s eye and is part of the V-shaped Hyades cluster that forms the Bull’s face..

Ceres will reach opposition on November 27, when it’ll be opposite the sun in our sky and visible all night long. It will also be as close as it comes to Earth for 2021 around the time of opposition. So it’s now at about its brightest for this year and will remain so throughout November and into early December.

The 2022 lunar calendars are here. Order yours before they’re gone!

Photos of Ceres and Aldebaran

Side by side images of orangish Aldebaran and small dot getting closer.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | David Hoskin in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, captured these photos of Ceres and Aldebaran on October 30, 2021, and November 2, 2021. He wrote: “A comparison of the two images taken approximately 74 hours apart shows the movement of Ceres relative to the bright star Aldebaran, as the dwarf planet moves through the constellation Taurus. Ceres is much smaller than our moon but accounts for about 25% of the mass of the asteroid belt!” Thank you, David!
Side by side images of orange dots and red arrows pointing to Ceres moving.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Eliot Herman in Tucson, Arizona, captured these side-by-side photos of Ceres and Aldebaran on November 2 and 3, 2021. He wrote: “This is the Ceres conjunction, captured in my backyard. Still a lot of haze here. It was in a different position the prior night so it really sticks out.” Thank you, Eliot! Note orangish Aldebaran and the position of the dot with the red arrow at left, and how it changes the next night in the image on the right.

Bottom line: Ceres and Aldebaran came close together as seen from Earth in early November, and EarthSky community members were ready to capture the moment.

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