Asteroids

Asteroids might be tiny compared with the other bodies in the solar system, but they’re still important. Leftovers from the solar system’s earliest days, these rocks preserve the record of planet formation in their makeup. They also make for fun (and sometimes challenging) observing targets. Even more exciting is when near-Earth asteroids buzz Earth, not only giving us the chance to watch them zip through the sky but also to observe their shapes and compositions.

Here you’ll find facts, tips, and tricks for observing asteroids. Learn where to spot Ceres and Vesta, two of the largest asteroids and the focus of NASA’s Dawn mission. You can also join in larger asteroid search campaigns and share in the excitement of finding these roving space rocks.

Paths of Vesta and Uranus in late 2004

Spot Vesta (and Uranus)

Two solar-system bodies just below naked-eye brightness can be found with binoculars in eastern Aquarius on October and November evenings: the minor planet 4 Vesta and Uranus.

Upcoming Asteroid Occultation

A few minutes before 5:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time on December 24th, the 170-kilometer-wide minor planet 334 Chicago passes in front of the 8.5-magnitude star SAO97327 in Gemini. The nominal path for this event crosses Philadelphia (at about 9:57 Universal Time) and continues westward across Lake Michigan, just north of the city after which...

Path of 2002 NY40

How to Watch Saturday’s Asteroid Flyby

On Saturday night, August 17–18, a recently discovered asteroid will pass close enough to Earth to be easily spotted in small telescopes or even binoculars. The latest calculations by the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, indicate the flyby will bring it to within 527,000 kilometers (327,000 miles) of Earth, just outside the Moon’s...

Path of 2002 NY40

A Close Encounter with an Asteroid

An updated version of this article, complete with finder charts, is available here. In mid-August an asteroid will pass close enough to Earth to be easily spotted in small telescopes and binoculars. According to calculations by Gareth V. Williams, associate director of the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the asteroid's August 18th flyby...