2006 VV2 and NGC 3254

Senior editor Dennis di Cicco captured 2006 VV2 as it glided southward (downward) past spiral galaxy NGC 3254 in Leo Minor about 11 p.m. EDT on March 30th. Three 5-minute exposures were composited for this image. They were made with an Apogee U9000 CCD camera and Tele Vue-NP127is (5-inch) refractor.

S&T: Dennis di Cicco

Despite a nearly full Moon, backyard astronomers around the world turned their telescopes skyward this past weekend to track down asteroid 2006 VV2, which brushed past Earth at a distance of just 2.1 million miles (3.9 million kilometers). The 10th-magnitude interloper could be seen as a faint point moving roughly 1 degree per hour, or 1 arcminute per minute, against the starry background. The asteroid's rapid motion was easily detectable in the eyepiece over just a few minutes.

In anticipation of the weekend's close approach, Sky & Telescope's Tony Flanders and Gregg Dinderman prepared a series of detailed charts showing the asteroid's path among the stars (see "A Big Chunk of Rock Passes Near Earth," linked below). With these charts in hand, telescopic observers were well prepared to find 2006 VV2, even though the asteroid was in the same part of the sky as the bright Moon.

Skies were mostly clear both Friday and Saturday nights in New England, enabling several S&T staffers to observe or photograph the asteroid as it made its way south through Leo Minor, Leo, and Sextans. One of senior editor Dennis di Cicco's images appears above. Editor in chief Rick Fienberg snapped a series of 30-second exposures on Saturday night using a Tele Vue-85 refractor and Canon 20Da digital SLR camera. His sequence shows the asteroid's motion over about 12 minutes beginning at 10 p.m. EDT (2h UT April 1st) and is available as a 4.8-megabyte animated GIF. Readers who had similarly good luck have begun sending us their reports and photos, some of which will appear in our online Photo Gallery, in the section called Our Solar System, in the coming days.


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