Astronomy news for the two weeks starting Friday, May 21, 2010.
Skylights, presented a bit early, will resume its normal weekly
schedule on Friday, June 4. Last week's
is still available.
During our extended period, the Moon grows from first quarter (achieved Thursday, May 20) through its
waxing gibbous phase to full, reached the night of Thursday, May 27.
We then see it head toward third quarter
in its waning gibbous phase, the quarter
finally made at the close of our fortnight on Friday, June 4. The
night of Saturday the 22nd, the waxing Moon will pass a hefty 8
degrees south of Saturn. The "big show" takes place the night of
the full Moon, on Thursday the 27th, when it can be found just a
bit north of Antares in Scorpius, the star though difficult to
see in the lunar glare. If you can, use binoculars. On Thursday,
June 3, the Moon passes apogee, where it is farthest from Earth.
In the evening, night after night, Venus climbs
higher, while Mars
descends. Not like it does Venus much good, as the end of twilight
just continues to keep up with the bright planet, which still sets
in the west northwest just half an hour after the sky is fully
dark. Mars, however, well into the west after sundown, sets ever
earlier, now around 1:30 AM. Moving rapidly to the east against
the stellar background, the red planet can be seen approaching Regulus in Leo.
Farther east, Saturn still
resides in Virgo to the west of
Spica, not setting until roughly
2:30 AM, as Jupiter rises, about an hour before dawn. The giant
planet, in Pisces to the
southeast of the "Circlet,"
dominates the early morning sky. Saturn makes the bigger news,
though, by ceasing its
retrograde motion on the last day of May (as does Neptune). They
will then begin their normal easterly movements against the stars.
That leaves us with Mercury, which is making a
poorish morning appearance not far above the dawn horizon, even
though going through greatest western elongation on Tuesday the
It's time to admire Corvus, the
Crow, one of the more prominent of small constellations. Look a bit low to the
south around 9 PM for a distorted box, its top two stars pointing
eastward toward Spica, its bottom two in the same direction toward
Gamma Hydrae, the next-to-the-
last star of the tail of Hydra,
the Water Serpent. Below the star, close to the horizon, glow the
stars of northern Centaurus, the