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Wednesday, May 25, 2011


The Sky This Week - Thursday May 26 to Thursday June 2

Venus, Mercury, Mars and Jupiter form a line in the morning sky, and are visited by the thin crescent Moon later in the week. Saturn is close to gamma Virginis.

Morning sky looking north-east as seen from Adelaide at 6:30 am local time on Sunday May 29 showing the Crescent Moon near Jupiter, with Mars, Venus and Mercury lined up below. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time. Click to embiggen.

The New Moon is Thursday June 2.

This week sees the bright planets strung out in a line as the final act in the "Planet Dance". The crescent Moon joins them at the end of the week.

Jupiter is prominent in the early morning sky above the threesome of Mars, Venus and Mercury. On the morning of Sunday the 29th, the crescent Moon forms a line with Jupiter and the rest of the bright planets.

Mars is just above Venus, but is not very spectacular. On the 30th Mars, the crescent Moon and Jupiter from a triangle in the sky.

Bright white Venus is readily seen in the early morning sky, although it is comeing closer to the horizon. Venus is "gibbous" phase, and is nearly "full". On the 31st, the thin crescent Moon is not far from Venus.

Mercury is is still visible in the eastern twilight not far below Venus, but draws away from Venus as the week wears on. Mercury becomes progressively more difficult to observe as it heads towards the horizon.

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

Evening sky on Saturday May 28 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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