Photo of the Week.Lyra, the Lyre, rises in spring skies with the
brilliant star Vega up and to the
left of the familiar parallogram of fainter stars. The famed
"double-double" Epsilon Lyrae is
down and to the left of Vega.
Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, April 25, 2008.
This is the week of the last quarter Moon,
the phase taking place on Monday, April 28, after sunrise. If you
are an early riser, you can see the Moon in the
morning hours just slightly before the formal quarter. Earlier in
the week, the Moon takes on a slightly gibbous appearance, while in the later days
it slims as a waning crescent. The
morning of Saturday the 26th finds the Moon within the confines of
the Little Milk Dipper of Sagittarius, while the following
morning, that of Sunday the 27th, the Moon will make a nice pairing
with Jupiter, passing around three degrees -- the width of
Orion's Belt -- to the south of
the giant planet. On Tuesday the 29th, the Moon will make a close
pass to Neptune, while
on Thursday May 1, it takes on Uranus, though
neither event is visible in North America.
While Gemini slips a degree per
day to the west (when viewed at the same time of night), Mars, in the central part of
the constellation, is moving half a degree in the
opposite direction, allowing it to maintain a nice evening position
in the western sky as the days go by. The motion of the planet is
easily seen over just a few-day period relative to Castor and Pollux, which appear above and to the
right of it. On Monday the 28th, the planet will pass five degrees
to the south of the latter star.
The evening is also a fine time to admire Saturn, which
transits the meridian now in mid-
twilight and is about as close to Leo's Regulus (just
to the east of the star) as possible, and 2.4 times (not quite a
full magnitude) brighter. Mars then sets just before 2 AM Daylight
Time (just after bright Jupiter rises in the southeast), which is
followed by the 3:30 AM setting of Saturn. Back into the evening,
by the end of the week
you might spot Mercury
in twilight just below the Pleiades of Taurus.
It will make a better appearance next week.
Welcome to May, and May Day (and May Day Eve), an astronomical
holiday of sorts, a "cross-quarter day" like Groundhog Day and
Halloween that mark the half-way points between seasons. Summer is fast approaching.