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Moon and Jupiter

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.
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