May 2018

Welcome to Observing With Webb, where a high school astronomy teacher tells you what you’re looking at, why it’s so cool, and what you should check out later this month…at night.  Don’t forget to check out my Podbean page, YouTube Channel, and Twitter feed, or get my podcast feed on Stitcher, or iTunes.

May will be a month for 4 out of the 5 naked eye planets, with Venus and Jupiter visible early each night and Mars and Saturn visible in the mornings, along with close encounters between each of these and the Moon.

 

Naked-eye PLANETS...

  • Around Sunset – Venus (W)
  • Throughout the night – Jupiter (EàW)
  • Morning – Saturn (E) , Mars (E), Jupiter (W)

Mercury

  • Not visible this month

Venus

  • Venus is looking fantastic this month! Look West and find the brightest source of light in that direction, about two fist-widths above the horizon.

Mars

  • Rises between 12am and 1am. Look SSE around sunrise and find the red object near Saturn, in Capricorn.

Saturn

  • Rises around 1am at the beginning of the month and 11pm at the end. Look about 20˚ above the SSE horizon, up and to the right of Mars and at the top of Sagittarius.

Jupiter

  • Up in the SE around sunset and moves across the sky throughout the night, hanging out in Libra, setting right around sunrise.


EVENTS...

 4th - 7th  – Close EncounterMoon, Saturn, Mars – After 2am, the Moon lines up just 6˚ to the right of Saturn on the 4th, with Mars 15˚ to the left of Saturn on the 4th. On the 5th, the Moon is almost perfectly in between Mars and Saturn, and then travels to within 2˚ of Mars on the morning of the 6th.  The next morning, find the Last Quarter Moon VERY low on the horizon, with Mars and Saturn lining up to the right.

Last Quarter Moon – 7th (Visible from midnight into the morning)

Jupiter reaches opposition – 8th (Visible from midnight into the morning)

New Moon – 15th (darkest skies) 

17th - Close EncounterMoon, Venus – A wonderful pair this month. Look West after sunset for bright Venus with a very thin crescent Moon just 5˚ to the left.

19th – 20th - Rocket Launch – NASA will be sending another cargo resupply to the International Space Station on an Antares rocket from Wallops Island in VA

First Quarter Moon – 21st (Visible until midnight)

27th Close EncounterMoon, Jupiter – Find the Moon after sunset and you’ll also find Jupiter about 5˚ down and to the right, both within Libra.

Full Moon – 29th (Visible all night)

31st Close EncounterMoon, Saturn – Find the Moon after 11pm and you’ll also find Saturn about 2˚ down and to the right, both within Sagittarius.

 

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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