Photo of the Week. The rising Sun lights and warms
Astronomy news for the three-week period starting Friday, May
Skylights will next appear on June 15, 2007.
During this extended three-week period, we watch our Moon go
through much of its phase cycle, from just past first
quarter, through the waxing gibbous to
full the night of Thursday, May 31,
through waning gibbous to third quarter
(Friday, June 8), then through waning
crescent, and finally to new on Thursday, June 14th. As it
sails along, it will pass just south of Antares the night of Thursday the
31st (the full Moon making the star hard to see), then a few hours
later, the morning of Friday the 1st, several degrees to the south
(which lies just to the northeast of the star). It then
respectively goes by Neptune
Uranus on Wednesday the 6th and Friday the 8th, and finally
during daylight on Sunday the 10th, rendering it to the west of the
planet that morning, to the east of it the following morning. With
the Sun near the Summer Solstice,
this full Moon will be close to the Winter Solstice. In addition, the tilt of the lunar
orbit will be sending it well south of the ecliptic, resulting in a very
low full Moon (as seen from northern climes).
(now near its most glorious) reaches a milestone by passing its
greatest eastern elongation (45 degrees to the east of the Sun) the
night of Friday, June 8. While the planet slowly begins a descent
toward twilight, it will continue to brighten until mid-July. The
night of Thursday the 31st, Venus will make a fine-looking
alignment with (to the left of) Castor and Pollux in Gemini. (It passes four degrees south of Pollux on
Wednesday the 30th.) That same evening (the 31st, and for a couple
nights before and after), look for
Mercury down and to the right, near the feet of the celestial
twins, the little planet passing its own greatest eastern
elongation (23 degrees east of the Sun) on Saturday the 2nd.
Right in the middle of our viewing period, Jupiter hits its own
milestone, as it stands at opposition to the Sun on Tuesday the 5th
of June. At that time, it will rise at sunset, set at sunrise, and
cross the meridian to the south at local midnight (about 1 AM
Daylight Time). Not to be outdone, around June 1, Saturn turns completely into an evening planet, setting
at local midnight, while Neptune begins
retrograde motion the day after Jupiter's opposition. Finally,
as May turns to June, try Mars, which is now rising over half an
hour before dawn's first light.
This time of year presents us with a fine parade of constellations that begins with Bootes, marked by Arcturus, the brightest star of the
northern hemisphere (just follow the curve of the Big Dipper's handle to the south).
Then following to the east are Corona
Borealis (the Northern Crown), Hercules, Lyra (with
Vega, just barely the second
brightest star of the northern hemisphere), and finally Cygnus, the Swan, with magnificent Deneb at its tail.