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Wednesday, May 11, 2011


The Sky This Week - Thursday May 12 to Thursday May 19

The Full Moon is Tuesday May 17. Venus, Mercury, Mars and Jupiter are visible close together in the early morning and form some nice patterns with each other. On May 12th Venus and Jupiter are close with Mercury nearby. On May 17th there is a particularly interesting pattern of planets.

Morning sky looking east as seen from Adelaide at 6:00 am local time on Thursday May 17 showing Venus near Jupiter and Mercury with Mars below. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time. Click to embiggen.

The Full Moon is Tuesday May 17.

This week sees the bright planets have still more close encounters with each other as part of a "Planet Dance".

Bright white Venus is readily seen in the early morning sky. Venus is "gibbous" phase, and is nearly "full". Near Venus are Mercury, Jupiter and Mars .

Mercury is readily visible in the eastern twilight not far below Venus. This and the next week remain the best time to see Mercury in the morning this year. On the 12th Venus and Jupiter are at their closest, with Mercury nearby. Jupiter heads higher in the sky while Mercury and Venus remain close for some time. Mars is faint below the three. On the 17th the four planets make an interesting pattern in the sky.

You can see a videocast of the entire months planet dance here.

Evening sky on Saturday May 14 looking north as seen from Adelaide at 9:00 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 7th , you will need a fairly large telescope to see any moon other than Titan. Click to embiggen.

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

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), 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 Capricornius, not near anything interesting, although it passes a couple of bright stars. 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.

Cloud cover predictions can be found at SkippySky.


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