Tuesday, May 08, 2012
The Sky This Week - Thursday May 10 to Thursday May 17
Evening sky looking North as seen from Adelaide at 8:00 pm local time on Saturday May 12 showing Mars, Regulus, Saturn and Spica and comet Garradd. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time. The inset shows the telescopic appearance of Saturn and it's Moons at this time. Click to embiggen.
The Last Quarter Moon is Sunday May 13.
Mars is in the constellation of Leo. It is the brightest object in the northern sky, and its distinctive red colour makes it easy to spot. Mars is rising before sunset and is at its highest in the northern sky around 7:30 pm local time.
Mars is close to the bright star Regulus in Leo. However, it continues to move away over the week.
Mars was at opposition on March 4, when it was biggest and brightest as seen from Earth. Sadly, this is a poor opposition and Mars will be fairly small in modest telescopes.
Saturn is above the north-eastern horizon, not far from the bright star Spica. Saturn is high enough in the northern sky for telescopic observation in the late evening, being highest at 10:30 pm local time. local time. Saturn was at opposition, when it is biggest and brightest as seen from Earth, on the 16th of April, but now is still a great time for telescopic views of this ringed world.
With the Moon rising later, Comet C/2009 P1 Garrad is once again visible in the northern sky. At magnitude 8, it is just observable in binoculars. It's still relatively low to the horizon and the effects of light pollution means that the best views are in strong binoculars or telescopes under dark sky condition. As the week progresses it will rise further above the horizon, improving its visibility.
Morning sky on Sunday May 13 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 6:00 am local time in South Australia. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen)
Mercury is visible above the eastern horizon by 6:00 am in the morning.
Mercury is sinking towards the horizon, but is still visible this week.
On Saturday and Sunday Mercury will be within binocular distance of the Asteroid Vesta. Vesta, at magnitude 8, will be hard to pick up without strong binoculars and a good dark sky site.
Evening sky on Saturday May 12 looking north-west as seen from Adelaide at 6:00 pm local time in South Australia showing Venus near the Star Elnath. The inset shows the appearance of Venus seen telescopically at this time. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen)
Bright white Venus is visible in the evening western twilight sky from around half an hour after sunset for about an hour.
Venus continues to pass through Taurus this week. It starts the week close to the star Elnath, and draws away from Elnath during the week.
Venus is slowly sinking towards the horizon, and will become more difficult to see. It is a distinct crescent in even small telescopes now.
Jupiter is lost in the twilight.
With Mars past opposition and Saturn high in the sky, there are lots of interesting things in the sky to view with a telescope. 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 AEDST, 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.