Photo of the Week. Wind-blown clouds above the sea.
Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, May 23, 2014.
The Moon fades away the early part of the week in its waning crescent phase, then passes through
new Moon on Wednesday, May 28th. It will make a fine sight with
Venus the twilight morning of Sunday the 25th, appearing
just above the brilliant cloud-covered planet. The ultrathin
crescent will appear well down and to the left of Venus the
following morning. Our orbiting companion then pops up as a waxing crescent in the western evening sky
to the left of Mercury the night of Friday the 30th. But that's next
week. For the latter part of our week, the Moon is quite out of
sight, rendering the skies dark and allowing the stars to shine
through. It's perfect for viewing a possibly-strong meteor shower the morning of Saturday the
24th, when the debris of a small passing comet, 209P/LINEAR,
may strike the Earth. No guarantees.
Getting ever lower in darkening western skies as the weeks
progress, Jupiter, in Gemini, now sets only an hour or
so past the end of evening twilight and is gone well before
midnight. Crossing the meridian to the
south in mid-evening dusk, Mars shifts
into the southwest well to the northwest of Spica in Virgo, where it has been for some time now. It sets
just before dawn begins to light the eastern sky. Saturn, still
in central Libra to the east of
famed Zubenelgenubi, crosses to
the south around midnight Daylight Time. That leaves us with the
two planets inside the orbit of Earth. Venus rises in the east
just after the morning sky begins to brighten, while Mercury is
near its western-sky best, achieving greatest elongation 23
degrees east of the Sun the night of Saturday the 24th. Hard to find, the
little planet sets at the end of twilight. As noted, find it to
the right of the crescent Moon the evening of Friday the 30th.
The summer stars are moving in. To the southeast of Saturn and
Libra, find obvious Scorpius and
its luminary, the red supergiant Antares. Above it is the huge
sprawling pentagon that makes up Ophiuchus, the Serpent Bearer (represented by Serpens to either side), and above
that the hero Hercules, the
harbinger of summer's Lyra and
the bright star Vega to the east.