Photo of the Week. Stormy skies will clear to reveal
Astronomy news for the two weeks starting Friday, May 8, 2015.
The next skylights will appear May 22, 2015.
We begin with a fat waning gibbous Moon that passes last quarter the morning of Monday, May 11,
with the Moon high in the sky. The Moon thence runs through its
waning crescent, which is terminated by
new Moon on Sunday the 17th. Your last look at the ultra-thin
crescent will be the morning of Saturday the 16th. As it fades,
the Moon passes north of Neptune on
Tuesday the 12th then as bit south of Uranus three
days later. More significant, it goes through perigee, where it is
5.5 percent closer than average, the night of Thursday the 14th.
The waxing crescent will become readily
visible in western twilight the evening of Tuesday the 19th, after
which it will make some delightful visits. The evening of
Wednesday the 20th, find it below brilliant Venus, which in
turn will be below Castor and Pollux in Gemini. The following
evening the crescent will be down and to the left of the planet,
between it and the star Procyon
in Canis Minor. One more evening
takes the Moon well to the left of Venus and above Procyon, but
now down and to the right of Jupiter, the planet lying
above the Moon the night of Saturday the 23rd.
The bright light in the western evening sky, everyone's favorite
UFO, is Venus. And it will keep on getting brighter until early
July when it will also rendezvous with Jupiter, making an even
scarier UFO as it did a few years back.
Not only is Venus getting brighter, it's setting about as late as
it can, past 11:30 PM, almost two hours after the end of twilight.
Well past the meridian as the sky
darkens, Jupiter sets shortly after local midnight (1 AM Daylight
Time), maintaining its position to the west of Leo and Regulus. About as Jupiter sets, Saturn
transits low to the south just above the three-star head of Scorpius, Antares below. The ringed planet
passes opposition to the Sun as our fortnight ends, on Friday the
22nd, when it will rise at sunset, cross to the south at local
midnight, and set at sunrise.
Southwest of Jupiter find the roundish head of Hydra, the Water Serpent. The
longest constellation in the sky,
Hydra, plunging to the southeast, wraps a third of the way around the
sky, its tail almost reaching to Libra. Hydra's modern cognate in the southern
celestial hemisphere, Hydrus, the
Water Snake (it does get confusing), is contained within 30
degrees of the South Celestial Pole
south of bright Achernar at the
end of Eridanus (the River),
and peaks in the evening for those south of the tropics in
December. In the early evening, northerners find the Big Dipper nearly overhead, orange
Arcturus high to the southeast.