Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, May 8, 2009.
Like human life, some weeks of the sky are filled with activity,
while others are quiet and relaxing. Unless we get an asteroid
strike or something, this one seems to be one of the latter
variety. We do start off with the full
Moon, which takes place with the Moon well up (before midnight) the night of Friday,
May 8. The rest of the week is then spent with our Moon in the waning gibbous, as it heads toward third quarter the night of Saturday the 16th.
On Wednesday the 13th, it goes through apogee, where it
is farthest from Earth, about 5.5 percent farther than the average
239,000 miles (384,000 kilometers), but unless you can get a direct
comparison with the Moon at perigee, the distance effect (which
makes the Moon appear 5.5 percent smaller than average) is not
something that is noticeable.
Full Moon takes place among the faint stars of Libra, which will be pretty much
unobservable. The night of Saturday the 9th, the Moon will lie a
bit to the west of Antares in Scorpius, while the following night,
that of Sunday the 10th, it will be on the other side, to the east,
of the star. The Moon's orbit is currently tilted and oriented
such that Antares is undergoing a long series of occultations
(coverings) by the Moon, and this passage is no exception, though
the event will not be visible in North America.
The evening is highlighted by Saturn, which
crosses the meridian to the south
during twilight, about an hour after sunset, the ringed planet
still very slowly
retrograding in southeastern Leo. A telescopic examination shows the
rings "closing up," our view just skimming across the northern
Planetary action more belongs to the morning sky, where we find
Jupiter and Venus
. Rising around 2:30 AM in extreme northeastern Capricornus, Jupiter dominates the sky
until much brighter Venus arrives about an hour and a half later,
around 4 AM, half an hour after Saturn sets and just about the time
dawn begins to light the eastern sky.