2018-05-01 / Stargazing

‘May’ it be a star-studded event

For May 2018, the moon is full on April 29, so the first two weeks of May find it waning in the morning sky. The waning gibbous moon passes two degrees north of Saturn on May 4 and three degrees north of Mars on May 6. It is last quarter on May 7.

The new moon occurs on May 15. The waxing crescent moon passes five degrees south of bright Venus on the evening of May 17. The first quarter moon is on May 21, and the waxing gibbous moon passes four degrees north of Jupiter on May 27.

The full moon, the flower moon, occurs on May 29. On the 31, the waning gibbous moon again passes 1.6 degrees north of Saturn, both rising about 10 p.m. in the southeast.

Mercury is in the morning sky early this month, but it disappears in the sun’s glare by the 10. Venus dominates the evening sky in the southwest, and it appears as a featureless brilliant gibbous disk in the telescope.

Mars in still in the morning sky, but as the faster earth overtakes it at opposition on July 27, it is getting bigger and brighter each day. Jupiter is spectacular in the southeastern evening sky now, reaching opposition in early May in Libra.


Be sure to check out the four large Galilean moons with small telescopes, arrayed in a line around Jupiter’s equator. All except Callisto can pass in front of Jupiter and cast shadows. Here, Malone Calvert captured this Mercury-sized moon passing north of Jupiter’s pole last April with his 12-inch telescope. He used both visible and infrared filters to capture detail in Jupiter’s belts and zones. Be sure to check out the four large Galilean moons with small telescopes, arrayed in a line around Jupiter’s equator. All except Callisto can pass in front of Jupiter and cast shadows. Here, Malone Calvert captured this Mercury-sized moon passing north of Jupiter’s pole last April with his 12-inch telescope. He used both visible and infrared filters to capture detail in Jupiter’s belts and zones. This is a good month for Saturn, as well, which comes to opposition on June 27, rising in the east in Sagittarius. Good telescopes capture Saturn with its rings about as open as they can appear in the telescope. You can also see Titan, Saturn’s biggest moon, in small telescopes easily.

The winter constellations will soon be swallowed up in the sun’s glare, but Orion is still visible, with its famed Orion Nebula, M-42, seen below the three stars marking his famed belt. Dominating the southwest is the Dog Star, Sirius, the brightest star of the night sky. When Sirius vanishes into the sun’s glare in two months, this sets the period as “Dog Days.”

The brightest star in the northwest is Capella, distinctively yellow in color. It is a giant star, almost exactly the same temperature as our sun, but about 100 times more luminous.

Just south of it are the stellar twins, the Gemini, with Castor closer to Capella, and Pollux closer to the Little Dog Star, Procyon.

Overhead, the Big Dipper rides high. Good scouts know to take its leading pointers north to Polaris, the famed Pole Star. For us, it sits 30 degrees (our latitude) high in the north, while the rotating earth beneath makes all the other celestial bodies spin around it from east to west.

If you drop south from the bowl of the Big Dipper, Leo the Lion rides high. Note that the Egyptian Sphinx is based on the shape of this lion in the sky.

Taking the arc in the Dipper’s handle, we “arc” southeast to bright orange Arcturus, the brightest star of spring. It is cooler than our yellow sun and much poorer in heavy elements. Some believe its strange motion reveals it to be an invading star from another smaller galaxy, now colliding with the Milky Way in Sagittarius in the summer sky.

Moving almost perpendicular to the plane of our Milky Way, Arcturus was the first star in the sky with its proper motion across the historic sky noted by Edmund Halley.

Just east of Arcturus is Corona Borealis, the “northern crown.” This shapely coronet is one that Miss America would gladly don, and it is one of few constellations that looks like its name.

The bright star in the crown’s center is Gemma, the Gem Star.

Spike south to Spica, the hot blue star in Virgo, then curve to Corvus the Crow, a four sided grouping. Note Jupiter, now near Spica.

The arms of Virgo harbor the Virgo Supercluster of Galaxies, with thousands of “island universe” in the spring sky.

PUBLIC GAZES

by the Escambia Amateur Astronomers begin at sunset and run ‘til 10 p.m.

Gulfside Pavillion Pensacola Beach Friday V May 18th & Saturday V May 19th

For Astronomy Day 2018. These sidewalk astronomy sessions will feature observing the first quarter moon overhead, and start at sunset with Jupiter overhead and Saturn rising in the SE.

Battery Worth on Ft. Pickens Picnic Area Friday V May 11th

* The dark sky sessions will allow observers to enjoy the beauty of the night sky, the Milky Way and many more galaxies beyond our own. We plan a sky interpretation session to introduce the constellations in twilight at the amphitheater at 7:30 PM.

Big Lagoon State Park Saturday V May 5th

(near the observation tower)

For more information on the Escambia Amateur Astronomers, find us on Facebook at “Escambia Amateur Astronomers,” visit our website at www.eaaa.net or call our sponsor, Lauren Rogers at Pensacola State at (850) 484-1155 or lrogers@pensacolastate.edu. Join them on Facebook at Escambia Amateur Astronomers Association.

Download the

May Evening Sky Map at skymaps.com for a list of the best objects to view with the naked eye, binoculars & scopes

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