Tuesday, May 20, 2014
The Sky This Week - Thursday May 22 to Thursday May 29
The New Moon is Thursday May 29.
At 6:00 pm if you have a level horizon free of obstructions, you can see four bright planets strung out across the sky, Mercury just above the horizon, Jupiter above that, Mars high in the northern sky and Saturn rising in the west.
Mercury is low in the evening sky in the western twilight. Mercury is at its greatest distance from the Sun on the 25th, but you will still need a clear level horizon to see it properly.
Jupiter is low to the horizon when twilight ends. Jupiter sets around 20:30, telescopic observation is not really worthwhile now.
In the early evening Jupiter 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 above the western horizon 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) to the north and Saturn rising in the east is quite beautiful.
Jupiter's Moons are readily visible in binoculars.
Jupiter is very close to the moderately bright star Wasat on the 23rd.
Mars is easily seen in the northern evening sky. It is highest in the sky around 20:40. 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 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 and forms a triangle with the two brightest stars of Libra, its apex pointing towards the head of the Scorpion.
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 in a telescope and is visited by the crescent Moon on the 26th.
The asteroids Vesta and Ceres are just below Mars, however, now only Vesta remains visible in binoculars. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen).
The bright asteroid 4 Vesta is visible in binoculars in the evening sky. 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 is now too dim to see with 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 AEST, 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.
Labels: weekly sky