Thursday, May 13, 2010

Look For Mars And Venus In May Skies

By Jon Spargo
Tech Astronomy Club

Venus will continue to dominate the early evening sky. Shining at magnitude -3.9 it will maintain about the same position throughout the month. Look for it just after sunset above the west-northwest horizon.
Mercury spends a good deal of the month transiting behind the sun putting in a dim appearance in the early morning sky at the very end of this month.
Mars will be eminently viewable during the month. High above our heads at sunset, Mars continues to move slowly eastward coming to within 4 degrees of the bright star Regulus on the 31st.
About midway between the bright stars Regulus in Leo and Spica in Virgo you will find Saturn shining steadily at about magnitude +1.0. As the month progresses, its magnificent rings will close to a tilt of a mere 1.7 degrees from being seen edge on. This is the last time for almost a decade that the rings will be this narrow. So now is your chance. Folks with good binoculars or small to medium sized telescopes may be able to pick out some of the dim moons of Saturn as they move along with the material in the rings.
Jupiter will be visible in the early morning sky but by the end of the month will rise around 2 a.m. shining at magnitude -2.3. Jupiter is headed for a rendezvous with the planet Uranus in early June. More about that in next month’s column.
The Moon will be last quarter on the 6th, new on the 13th, 1st quarter on the 20th and full on the 27th. On the 9th, about an hour before sunrise, look for the waning crescent Moon just above the planet Jupiter on the eastern horizon. On the 15th and 16th, the crescent moon will bracket the planet Venus on the western horizon about 45 minutes after sunset.
If you look southeast around 11 p.m. on the night of May 27 the full Moon will be a scant one degree above the bright star Antares in the constellation Scorpius.

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