Photo of the Week. With summer approaching, let us
remember winter and its brilliant clear skies.
Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, May 2, 2008.
We start the week with the Moon in a slim
waning crescent phase. It then passes through new (more or
less between us and the Sun) on Monday, May 5.
Try to find the ultrathin crescent in
dawn's light close to the horizon the morning of Sunday the 4th,
which will be your last look until it pops up as a waxing crescent in evening twilight. (The
morning of Saturday the 3rd provides an easier view.) Since the
Moon passes perigee less
than a day after the new phase, tides at the coasts
will be especially high.
The evening of Tuesday the 6th is rather special, as the thin
waxing crescent will provide an excellent guide to Mercury, which will be just
below the Moon for those in North America. The little planet is
heading toward greatest eastern elongation on May 13, and is making
its best evening showing for the year. If you've never seen
Mercury, this is a wonderful opportunity. The following evening,
that of Wednesday the 7th, the Moon will appear between the horns
of Taurus to the left of Elnath, Beta Tauri.
The evening is also prime time for viewing Mars. Now to the east
of classical Gemini, to the left
of Pollux and Castor, the red planet formally
enters the constellation Cancer on
Monday the 5th as it speeds along to the east. Well into the west
by dark, Mars is on its way to becoming strictly an evening planet,
as it now sets around 1:30 AM Daylight Time.
Our week is then rather bookended by
Saturn and Jupiter. On Saturday the 3rd, the ringed planet finally
retrograde motion, appearing as close to Leo's Regulus (to the
east of the star) as possible for this orbital round. Returning to
its normal easterly motion, Saturn and Regulus will now begin to
part. Make a note to see the two together some 29 to 30 years from
now. Just 6 days later, on Friday the 9th, Jupiter does the
reverse by ceasing easterly motion in eastern Sagittarius to the northeast of the Little Milk Dipper, and beginning its
westerly retrograde movement. Transiting the meridian only half an hour after sunset,
Saturn lies in the western darkened sky, setting around 3 AM
Daylight. To the southeast, Jupiter makes another transition by
rising at local midnight (1 AM Daylight).
Once again return to the deep southern sky and to Argo, the Ship of the Argonauts.
While Puppis, the stern of the
Ship, which lies to the south and east of Canis Major is gone for those in mid-North America, the
Ship is so huge that the eastern part of Vela, the Sails, is still visible to the far south as
the sky darkens. By midnight the deep southern sky stages the next
big constellation over, Centaurus, the Centaur, who in myth is related to the