Skylights featured three times on Earth Science
Picture of the Day: 1
Photo of the Week.. A West Virginia mountain sunset
deepens, slowly bringing day to an end.
Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, May 13, 2005.
Once again, the Moon leaves its waning crescent phase behind,
first quarter the morning of Monday, May 16 (near dawn), after
which it waxes in its early gibbous
phase. Watch then as our companion takes on bright Jupiter,
which it will pass just south of during the afternoon (for North
America) of Thursday the 19th. By the time Jupiter is visible
toward the south, the two will make a pretty sight, with the Moon
just to the east of the giant planet. (The Moon will actually
occult Jupiter for parts of South and Central America and Africa.)
Jupiter, crossing the meridian to the south just as twilight ends,
still shares the evening with its brother planet, Saturn,
which -- still in Gemini -- now
sets in the northeast around 12:30 AM Daylight Time. The morning
sky is shared briefly by Jupiter and Mars, the latter rising in Aquarius shortly before 3 AM
(Daylight), a bit over an hour before Jupiter sets (and twilight
begins). Jupiter is somewhat half Saturn's distance from the Sun and goes around it
in less than half the time. As a result, Jupiter continues to pull
ever farther ahead of Saturn in orbit. Every 20 years, Jupiter
catches up again with Saturn in what is known as the "grand
conjunction." The last one was May 31, 2000.
The two outer large planets make some news too. On Saturday the
14th, Mars passes just a degree south of Uranus, making
the dim planet much easier to find. Farther out, Neptune, still
stuck in Capricornus, begins retrograde motion on Thursday the 19th.
Back in the evening, you might search for Venus, which finds
itself to the north of the star Aldebaran in Taurus on Wednesday the 18th. The
planet will appear very low in western twilight, and is still a
challenge to see even with binoculars.
In late evening for those in mid North America, the stars of Centaurus cross the low southern
sky. While they do not make much of a prominent figure, they are
bright, many part of a huge sprawling physical "association" of hot
blue massive stars. Farther down, below the horizon, is the
closest star to the Sun, Rigil Kentaurus (Alpha Centauri),
4.4 light years off. To the west of it lies one of the most famed
figures of the sky, Crux, the
Southern Cross. Look to Spica in
Virgo, now to the southeast of
Jupiter. To the west of Spica is the distorted square of Corvus, the Crow. Crux is 40
degrees to the south of it.