Wednesday, April 29, 2015
The Sky This Week - Thursday April 30 to Thursday May 7
The Full Moon is Monday May 4.
Venus is easy to see above the western horizon in the twilight. At nautical twilight, an hour after sunset, it is around two hand-spans above the horizon, and still visible at astronomical twilight.
During the week Venus heads away from the Hyades cluster and Aldebaran towards the stars Castor and Pollux, heading for a meeting with Jupiter later next month. On it's way, it passes between the bright stars that mark the horns of Taurus the Bull.
Mars is lost in the twilight.
Jupiter is easily seen in the evening sky. It is the brightest object above the northern horizon when twilight ends, and continues into the north-western sky as the night goes on. It is between the bright star Regulus in the sickle of Leo (this forms the head of the constellation of the Lion) and Pollux in Cancer. It is also not far from the rather nice Beehive cluster in Cancer, and looks very good in binoculars.
Jupiter was at opposition, when it is biggest and brightest in our sky, on 7 February, but it will be an excellent object for many weeks to come. Jupiter is visible for most of the night, setting just after midnight, and is high enough for telescopic observation once twilight is over. Jupiter's Moons will be putting on a good display in both binoculars and small telescopes. On April 2 around 22:00 Io comes out of eclipse.
Saturn is now easily visible around 9 pm near the head of the constellation of the Scorpion not far from the bright red star Antares. The sight of the distinctive constellation of the Scorpion curled above the horizon, with bright Saturn in its head, is very nice indeed.
While Saturn is readily visible from around 20:00, it is best for telescope observation from around 22:00 into the morning hours. It is visited by the Moon on the 5th.
Mercury is low in the western evening sky, but is difficult to see in the twilight.
Morning sky on Thursday May 8 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 4:00 am ACST. The radiant of the eta Aquariid meteor shower is shown. Similar views will be seen throughout Australia at equivalent local times. (click to embiggen).
The eta Aquariids meteor shower, the debris from Halleys comet, will peak on May 6 UT . However, good rates will be seen from Australia on the mornings of the 7th and 8th.
Unfortunately, the waning but nearly full Moon will significantly interfere with viewing meteors this year. People in the suburbs should see a meteor around once every 9 minutes, and in the country about once every 6 minutes. The radiant of the shower is about five handspans up from the eastern horizon, and three handspans to the left of due east at 4 am (see spotter chart at 4 am above).
When looking, be sure to let your eyes adjust for at least 5 minutes so your eyes can be properly adapted to the dark. Don't look directly at the radiant site, because the meteors will often start their "burn" some distance from it, but around a hand-span up or to the side. Be patient, although you should see an average of a meteor every six minutes, a whole stretch of time can go by without a meteor, then a whole bunch turn up one after the other.For more details see my eta Aquariid page.
There are lots of interesting things in the sky to view with a telescope. Especially with Jupiter, Venus and Saturn 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 AEDST. 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