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Tuesday, May 13, 2014


The Sky This Week - Thursday May 15 to Thursday May 22

The Last Quarter Moon is Wednesday May 21. Jupiter is low in the early evening sky. Mars and Saturn are prominent in the evening sky. Mercury returns to the evening sky. Venus is prominent in the morning sky. The asteroids Vesta and Ceres are visible in binoculars.

The Last Quarter Moon is Wednesday May 21. The Moon is at perigee (closest to Earth) on the 18th.

Evening sky on Sunday May 18 looking north-west as seen from Adelaide at 18:00 pm ACST in South Australia. Jupiter is above the north-western horizon, Mercury is just clearing the horizon. The inset shows Jupiter's Moons at this time. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen).

Mercury returns to the evening sky low in the western twilight.  By the end of the week is is reasonably high in the twilight.

Jupiter is low to the horizon when twilight ends. Jupiter sets around 20:45, so there is a very short time for good telescopic observation now.

In the early evening it is above the north-western horizon between the bright stars Castor and Pollux, the twins of Gemini, and the bright red star Betelgeuse. Jupiter is quite easy to see as the brightest object in the entire sky in the early evening. In the early evening the sight of bright Jupiter sinking to the west, and bright Mars (still not as bright as Jupiter though) rising in the east is quite beautiful.
Jupiter's Moons are readily visible in binoculars.

Jupiter comes very close to the moderately bright star Wasat by the 22nd. 

Mars  is easily seen in the northern evening sky. It is highest in the sky around 21:00. Mars was at opposition, when it is biggest and brightest, on the 9th of April, and is still  readily distinguishable as the bright red/orange object above the northern evening horizon. Mars is in the constellation of Virgo near the brightish star Porrima, not far from the bright star Spica. Mars is well worthwhile looking at in a telescope now, although you will need a decent one to see any detail.

Saturn is rising higher in the evening sky, and was at opposition on the 11th. Saturn is now visible all night long. Saturn is high enough from around 10 pm for decent telescopic observation (see below).  Saturn is in Libra near the head of the constellation of the Scorpion. Saturn forms a triangle with the two brightest stars of Libra, its apex pointing towards the head of the Scorpion.

Morning sky on Saturday May 18 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 5:00 am ACST.   Similar views will be seen throughout Australia at equivalent local times. (click to embiggen).

Venus is in the morning sky, above the eastern horizon.  The brightest object in the morning sky, it is now easy to see and although it is past maximum brightness, it will dominate the morning sky for some time to come.

 Venus was at its furthest distance from the Sun on the 23rd of March, and now will begin to slowly sink towards the horizon. Venus is a clear  gibbous Moon shape.

Evening sky on Saturday May 18 looking north as seen from Adelaide at 22:00 pm ACST in South Australia. The inset show the telescopic views of Saturn and Mars at this time.

The asteroids Vesta and Ceres are just below Mars, and  visible in binoculars. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen).

Two bright asteroids are visible in binoculars in the evening sky. 1 Ceres and 4 Vesta. Unfortunately the waning  Moon means that these asteroids will be difficult to see this week. While Vesta is easily seen in binoculars, you will need to watch the same patch of sky in binoculars for a couple of nights to identify it by its movement. Ceres is now fading from magnitude 7, but is still in the range of 10x50 binoculars. See here for a printable black and white map suitable for seeing seeing Vesta and Ceres.

There are lots of interesting things in the sky to view with a telescope. Especially with Mars and Venus and Saturn so prominent in the sky.  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.

Printable PDF maps of the Eastern sky at 10 pm AEDST, Western sky at 10 pm AEST. 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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