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Tuesday, April 26, 2011


The Sky This Week - Thursday April 28 to Thursday May 5

The New Moon is Tuesday May 3. Venus, Mercury, Mars and Jupiter are visible lined up in the early morning. Jupiter becomes more prominent this and comes close to Mars. On April 30th and May 1st the crescent Moon joins the line up for spectacular views. Saturn is well placed for telescopic observation in the evening sky.

Morning sky looking east as seen from Adelaide at 6:00 am local time on Saturday April 30 showing the crescent Moon near Venus, Mars, Mercury and Jupiter. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time. Click to embiggen.

The New Moon is Tuesday May 3.

This week sees a spectacular line up in the morning sky.

Bright white Venus is readily seen in the early morning sky in Pisces. Venus is "gibbous" phase, and will progressively become more full (and smaller) over the coming weeks. Below Venus are Mercury, Mars and Jupiter.

Mercury is readily visible in the eastern twilight below Venus. As the week progresses it will become even more prominent and draws closer to Venus. The pair are very close by the end of the week. Mars and Jupiter are below the pair, with Jupiter closing in on Mars. Jupiter and Mars are at their closest on May the 1st. Jupiter may be initially difficult to see if you do not have a fairly clear, level eastern horizon. However, by the time of the Mars encounter it should be easy to see.

The Moon joins the line-up on April the 30th and May the 1st making for a spectacular display in the morning sky.

Evening sky on Saturday April 30 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 8:00 pm local time in South Australia showing Saturn near Spica. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time.

Inset,the telescopic view of Saturn on the 30th , you will need a fairly large telescope to see any moon other than Titan. Click to embiggen.

Saturn is rising with sunset, and is visible all night long. It is high enough for telescopic observation in the evening. It is readily visible as the bright yellowish object not far from the bright star Spica.

The big storm on Saturn is now so large that it is visible in even small telescopes.

Even in small telescopes you can see Saturn's rings and it's moon Titan. Saturn was at opposition on April 4th, when Saturn was at its biggest and brightest. Despite opposition being past, Saturn will be big and beautiful for many weeks to come.

If you don't have a telescope, now is a good time to visit one of your local astronomical societies open nights or the local planetariums.

The asteroid Vesta is quite faint (magnitude 7.6), so you need binoculars to see it and may need to watch over a number of nights to make sure you are seeing it. Currently Vesta is in the Sagittarius Capricornius boundary, not near anything interesting. Vesta is brightening and will be (just) visible to the unaided eye in a few months time. A chart showing Vesta's location is here.

Printable PDF maps of the Eastern sky at 10 pm ADST, Western sky at 10 pm ADST. For further details and more information on what's up in the sky, see Southern Skywatch.


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