Spotting Pluto From Down Here

As NASA’s New Horizons speeds through the Pluto system this July, it’s tempting to take a look into the sky from earth and think of what’s unfolding billions of kilometers away. The question is, where can you turn your gaze from earth and at least be pointing in the approximate direction?

Pluto is so far from earth that it does not change its position in the sky very quickly. At the present time (writing on 13 July 2015), Pluto is in the general area of the constellation Sagittarius. It’s not far from a famous asterism, the Teapot, that lies just off of the main band of the Milky Way.

Pluto highest altaz cropped labelled

The attached image was created by making a screen capture from Stellarium, set for the location of Hamilton, Ontaro, Canada, at the time when Pluto is highest above the horizon on the day following the close encounter on the 14th of July. This turns out to be at about 1 PM DST on the morning of Tuesday 15 July 2015. At that moment Pluto will be about due south and 25 degrees above the horizon.

From Hamilton, Ontario, on the day of the close encounter, Pluto will be rising at about 8 PM and will set the next day (the 15th) at about 5 AM. It’s extremely faint, of course. It will be extincted to a magnitude of about 14.5 on the 15th at its highest elevation.

The weather forecast for the 14th for the Hamilton area is for cloud and rain. In order to try to get a memento image, I have programmed one of the Sierra Stars Observatory Network telescopes to try to photograph the dwarf planet.