Close Encounter with Solar System Elder

The asteroid Vesta will be at its closest to the Earth tomorrow (8 September 2004) for several years. This is a great opportunity to see it since the sky will be quite dark with a young moon.

Vesta was the fourth asteroid ever to be discovered when it was first observed by Heinrich Olbers in 1807. It is one of the most geologically diverse of the large asteroids and, at 326 miles across, is the third biggest. Images taken in 1994 with the Hubble Space Telescope reveal a world unexpectedly like the Earth. Vesta once had lava flowing across its surface indicating a molten interior. Pieces of Vesta, chipped off by an impact with another space rock, have fallen to Earth as meteorites.

Although Vesta makes its closest approach to Earth tomorrow, it will be easiest to see in the night sky on 17 September. Come to the Royal Observatory Visitor Centre to find out where to look for this minor planet. As the nights draw in over the next few weeks, activity at the Royal Observatory Visitor Centre really gets going.

Public Observing every Friday: Our team will use our collection of solar and astronomical telescopes to show you the highlights of the evening and night sky every Friday. You can bring along your own telescope or binoculars and hear our top tips on how to get the best from them.

Public Observing: Every Friday 7:00 - 8:45. Adults 3.50. Children/Concessions 2.50. Family 9:00. Please phone to book your place on 0131 668 8404.

Doors Open Days - 25/26 September: We will be throwing open the Visitor Centre as part of the annual Doors Open Days.

Doors Open Days: 25 and 26 September 10:00 - 17:00. Free Admission.

Winter Talks: Our programme of astronomy talks kicks off on 19 October with 'Do Black Holes really exist?' Over the next few months talks will tackle galaxy formation, the Northern Lights, the lifecycle of stars, giant telescopes, planets around other stars...

Winter Talks: Every Tuesday from 19 October 7:30 - 8:30. Adults 2.00 (10 season ticket). Children/Concessions 1.00 (5 season ticket). Please go to or phone 0131 668 8404 for programme information.


Looking East over the Royal Observatory to Edinburgh.

Looking East over the Royal Observatory to Edinburgh.
Credit: The Royal Observatory, Edinburgh


Jenny Docket 0131 668 8404
Education Officer