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Tuesday, May 15, 2012


The Sky This Week - Thursday May 17 to Thursday May 24

The New Moon is Monday May 21. The transit of Venus is three weeks away. Venus is visible very low in the western evening sky close to the star Elnath. On the 22nd and 23rd the thin crescent Moon is close to Venus. Jupiter is lost in the twilight. Mars is in the eastern evening sky, close to the bright Star Regulus. Saturn is visible  near the star Spica. Mercury is visible in the morning sky. On the 19th Mercury is not far from the cresent Moon.

Evening sky looking North as seen from Adelaide at 8:00 pm local time on Saturday May 19 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  at this time. Click to embiggen.

The New Moon is Monday May 21.

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 7:20 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 10:00 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.

Comet C/2009 P1 Garrad is visible in the northern sky. At magnitude 9, it isnow observable only in telescopes . It's still relatively low to the horizon and the effects of light pollution means that the best views nder dark sky condition.

Morning sky on Saturday May 19 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 if you have a flat, unobstructed horizon (such as the sea).

On Saturday Mercury will be near the thin crescent Moon, low in the twilight.

Evening sky on Wedensday May 23 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 3/4 of an hour.

You will need a clear , level horizon to see it at its best.  On the 23rd, Venus is below the thin crescent Moon (on the 22nd the thin crescent Moon is not far from Venus, but this may be a challenge to see).

Venus remains in Taurus this week. It starts the week not far from the star Elnath, and doesn't move very far away.

Venus is slowly sinking towards the horizon, and will become more difficult to see. It is a thin crescent in even small telescopes now. In three weeks tine Venus will cross the disk of the Sun in a rare transit, the last until 2117. More details on viewing the transit will be published later.

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.


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