Photo of the Week. The (overexposed) crescent Moon
less than a day shy of first quarter hovers over Jupiter.
Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, May 17, 2013.
The Moon begins our week in its first
quarter the night of Friday, May 17, about the time of Moonset
in North America. Look for Regulus to the north and a bit east
of it. The Moon then waxes through the
week in its gibbous phase until it hits full the night of Friday the 24th (rather
the morning of the 25th), when it will undergo a
penumbral eclipse that is so marginal it will be impossible to
see. The night of Tuesday the 21st, the Moon will lie to the
west of Spica in Virgo, while the following night it
will be to the southwest of Saturn.
'Tis the gathering of the planets once again, but close to the
northwestern horizon in evening twilight, making them difficult if
not impossible to see. But if you have a flat horizon, a
brilliantly clear sky, and some dedication (and binoculars) you
might (especially toward the end of the week) catch
Jupiter (on top),
Venus (below), and Mercury (to the right of Venus). Venus is
brightest, Jupiter next. By the end of twilight, they are gone.
As the evenings progress, Jupiter is heading down, but both Venus
and especially Mercury are heading up. Well up and to the right,
the bright star Capella in Auriga hovers over the scene.
The darkened planetary sky is left to
Saturn. Nicely up in the southeast after the sky darkens, the
ringed planet is in
retrograde, moving slowly westerly against the stars.
Saturn has now moved from Libra across the formal boundary back to into Virgo,
about 14 degrees due east of Virgo's luminary, Spica. Crossing the
meridian to the south around 11:30 PM
Daylight Time, Saturn then sets in the southwest as twilight
brightens the eastern sky. Buried within the glow is Mars, which
will not make the scene until say late July, when it rises at the
beginning of dawn.
Look down and to the right of Spica to find box-like Corvus (the Crow). Some 40 degrees
south of it and out of sight below the horizon for most Americans
(and all Canadians) is that great icon of the southern skies, Crux, the Southern Cross. From the
deep southern US, though, you can pick it up, the scene of the
Cross followed by Beta and Alpha Centauri (the closest star)
especially good from Hawaii. Directly below Spica and near the
horizon for most of us sprinkle the stars of northern Centaurus.