May 2017

         Welcome to Observing With Webb, where the armchair astronomer figures out what they’re looking at, why it’s so cool, and what they should check out next.  Don’t forget to check out my Podbean page, YouTube Channel, and Twitter feed.

May is looking like a month to get back to basics, with 4 visible planets, and not much else, other than an eclipse on Jupiter.

 

PLANETS...well, the ones visible with your naked eye

Planets you can see around Sunset – Mars (W), Jupiter (SE)

Planets you can see throughout the night – Jupiter (SE-->W)

Planets you can see in the Morning – Saturn (S), Venus (E)

 

Mercury – Very low in the eastern dawn sky.  Probably too low to see

Venus –Bright and visible 20˚ high in East before sunrise all month.  Use binoculars to see its crescent shape turn into a half phase.

Mars – Look W after sunset and Mars will be the ruddy red object low in the sky near Taurus, lower in the sky every day, becoming non-visible by the end of the month.

Saturn – Rises around 11pm in the SE.  Look S in the mornings before sunrise.  It will only be about 25˚ above the horizon, much brighter than anything else around it, above Sagittarius and Scorpius.

Jupiter – After sunset, look SE about a third of the way up the sky and find the brightest point of light in that area.  It’ll move toward the West and set around 4:30am in the beginning of the month and 3am at the end

 

EVENTS...

First Quarter Moon – 3rd (Visible until midnight)

7thClose Encounter – Moon, Jupiter – Look SE after sunset to see the Moon and Jupiter just 2˚apart.  If you look W in the morning before 4:30am, you’ll see them just 4˚ apart.

Full Moon – 10th (Visible all night)

11thShadows on Jupiter – Check out Jupiter between 9:59pm and 10:06pm EDT and see Europa’s shadow and Io’s shadow both cast on Jupiter, on opposite sides.

18thShadows on Jupiter – Check out Jupiter between 11:53pm and 12:43am EDT and see Europa’s and Io’s shadows on Jupiter again, but closer together .   

Last Quarter Moon – 19th (Visible from midnight into the morning)

22ndClose Encounter – Moon, Venus – Get up after 4:15am but before sunrise (5:45am) and find a very thin crescent Moon in the East with Venus 3˚ to the left.

New Moon – 25th (darkest skies)

 

CONSTELLATIONS... (see sky map link at the bottom for a SkyMap for this month – or ask Mr. Webb)    Look straight up and you'll see...

After Sunset (sunset is between 8:00pm and 8:30pm) – Ursa Major’s legs, Leo, Leo Minor

Midnight – Bootes – find the Big Dipper’s handle, and starting from the inside of the handle, follow the arc that those four stars make past the last star in the handle about 30˚ or three fist-widths to the next very bright star you find which is Arcturus, the base of the constellation Boötes.  Hence astronomers use the phrase “Follow the Arc to Arcturus”

Early Morning – Hercules, Lyra, Cygnus – These are the Summer constellations, and since they are starting to rise in the morning now, that means that summer is on its way.

 

GENERAL CONSTELLATION FINDING TIPS: 

Spring constellations:  Bootes, Virgo, Leo, Corona Borealis, Hercules.

First find the Big Dipper in the North (a North Circumpolar Asterism that never sets) and look at the handle.  Starting at the star closest to the “cup” part, follow the rest of the stars in the handle and follow the arc to Arcturus.  Arcturus is the brightest star in Bootes the Shepherd.  Some say he looks more like a kite, others say more like an ice cream cone.

Then, following the same “arc”, speed on to Spica.  Spica is the brightest star in Virgo.  Virgo’s a dimmer constellation, so you’ll be rewarded when you find her.

To the left of Bootes is Corona Borealis.  This is a small collection of stars that make a crown, cup, or U shape in the sky.

To the left of Corona Borealis is the great constellation of Hercules.  Hercules is the Hero of the sky and has a central “keystone” asterism, in which lies M13, the Hercules Cluster.

Lastly, Leo is a constellation consisting of a backward question mark (or sickle) and a right triangle to the left.  Use the two Big Dipper “cup” stars that are in the middle of the Big Dipper and follow the line they make to the bright star Regulus, the brightest star in Leo.

Use a sky map from www.skymaps.com to help you out.

 

 

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