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Wednesday, May 18, 2011


The Sky This Week - Thursday May 19 to Thursday May 26

The Last Quarter Moon is Wednesday May 25. Venus, Mercury, Mars and Jupiter are still visible close together in the early morning and form some nice patterns with each other. On May 24th Mars, Venus and Mercury are close. Saturn is close to gamma Virginis.

Morning sky looking east as seen from Adelaide at 6:30 am local time on Tuesday May 24 showing Venus near Mars and Mercury with Jupiter above . Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time. Click to embiggen.

The Last Quarter Moon is Wednesday May 25.

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 week Mercury will still be prominent in the morning sky but will soon be lost to siht thereafter. On the 24th Venus and Mars are at their closest, with Mercury nearby. Jupiter heads higher in the sky above the threesome of Mercury, Mars and Venus.

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

Evening sky on Saturday May 21 looking north as seen from Adelaide at 9:00 pm local time in South Australia showing Saturn near Spica and very close to Porrima (gamma Virginis). Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time.

Inset, the telescopic view of Saturn on the 21st , 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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