Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, April 27, 2007.
This is the week of the full Moon, the
"Planting Moon," the "Milk Moon," the "Flower Moon," which rather
appropriately takes place on Wednesday, May 2, just a day past May
Day, which in turn is the day following May Eve, a "cross-quarter
day" that celebrates the halfway point between the first day of
spring and that of summer. With that dreadfully long sentence out
of the way, we will see the Moon waxing in its
gibbous phase the early part of the week, while the last two
days see it
gibbously waning. Just a couple days before full, the Moon
which will lessen the impact of the "
spring tide" (so-called at every new or full Moon and having
little to do with actual spring). On the morning of Friday, May 4,
you can find the Moon just to the west of Antares in Scorpius, while
Jupiter shines up and to the left of the pair (the star hard to
see in glowing Moonlight).
The two inner planets make a vividly contrasting pair. Venus
tops pretty much the whole sky right now. Shining brilliantly in
the northwest during early to mid evening, and not setting until
11:30 PM Daylight Time, during the latter part of the week the
planet glides between the two horns of Taurus (the Bull), Elnath on the right, Zeta Tauri on the left. Look early
to see the Hyades and Pleiades well below.
Mercury on the other hand is totally out of sight, as it passes
superior conjunction with the Sun (when it is on the other side of
the Sun) on Wednesday the 2nd, the same day as full Moon passage.
After admiring Venus, note that Saturn
passes a bit of a milestone when at the end of April it
crosses the meridian at sunset. By
the time the sky is dark it will have moved notably into western
skies, still to the west of Regulus (though moving slowly toward
it). Then at 11 PM (Daylight), Jupiter rises northeast of
Scorpius. For the next four hours, the two giants of the Solar
System will share the sky, until Saturn finally sets around 3 AM.
Finally (for the planets), Mars,
still shyly hiding in dawn, is passed by even more difficult-to-see
on Saturday the 28th.
With Spring in full swing, we can again admire its harbinger, Leo, which stands high to the south as
the sky darkens, its luminary Regulus at the end of the "Sickle"
that makes the Lion's head. Well down and to the left will be Virgo's Spica. Almost exactly in between the
two is the Autumnal Equinox,
where we will find the Sun on the first day of autumn. Below the
two figures winds Hydra the Water
Serpent, one of the longest constellations in the sky.