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Tuesday, May 05, 2015


The Sky This Week - Thursday May 7 to Thursday May 14

The Last Quarter Moon is Monday May 11. Venus is prominent in the twilight evening sky. Jupiter is the brightest object in the evening sky once Venus has set. Saturn is in the head of the Scorpion and is easily visible in the evening. Mercury is difficult to view in the twilight. Eta Aquariid meteor shower May 7-9. The International Space Station passes Venus as seen from many locations on the 7th.

The Last Quarter Moon is Monday May 11. The Moon is at perigee, when it is closest to the Earth, on the 15th.

Evening sky on  Thursday May 7 looking west as seen from Adelaide at 17:55 (5:55 pm) ACST in South Australia.  Venus is obvious in the early evening sky. Mercury is just on the horizon Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen).

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 draws closer to the stars Castor and Pollux, heading for a meeting with Jupiter later next month.

There are some good passes of the International Space Station this week, on the 7th the ISS passes Venus in many locations. See Heavens Above for predictions from your site.

Mercury is at its furthest from the Sun on the 7th, but is low in the western evening sky and difficult to see in the twilight. 

Mars  is lost in the twilight.

Early evening sky on Saturday May 9 looking north-west as seen from Adelaide at 18:30 ACST showing Venus and  Jupiter. Jupiter is the brightest object above the north-western horizon once Venus has set. (click to embiggen).

 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, Venus and Pollux form a line in the sky.

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.

Evening sky on Saturday May 9 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 21:00 ACST.  Saturn is  easily visible above the horizon in the head of the Scorpion. The inset shows the telescopic view of Saturn at this time. (click to embiggen).

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.

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 (compared to the peak) 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 handspan 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.

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


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