Stargazing possibilities are bright
For May 2017, the moon is first quarter on May 2. The waxing gibbous moon passes two degrees north of Jupiter in the southeast twilight sky on May 7. The full moon – the rose or strawberry moon – is on May 10. The waning gibbous moon passes three degrees north of Saturn, with both rising about 10 PM, on May 13. The moon is last quarter and rises about midnight on May 18. The waning crescent passes two degrees south of brilliant Venus in the dawn sky on May 22. The new moon is on May 25, and there are only three more new moons until the total solar eclipse on August 21.
While the naked eye, dark adapted by being several minutes away from any bright lights, is a wonderful instrument to stare up into deep space and far beyond our own Milky Way, binoculars are better for spotting specific deep sky objects.
For a detailed map of northern hemisphere skies, about April 30, visit the www.skymaps.com website and download the map for the new month. It will have a more extensive calendar and list of best objects for the naked eyes, binoculars and scopes on the back of the map. Also available is wonderful video exploring the sky, available from the Hubble Telescope website at http:// hubblesite.org/explore_ astronomy/ tonights_ sky/
Look for the crescent moon in the morning daytime sky on May 22, and look just above it to catch Venus in broad daylight with your eyes alone. Mars is low in the southwest after sunset, getting lost in the sun’s glare by month’s end. But Jupiter is spectacular in the southeastern evening sky now, having reached opposition in early April.
Be sure to use small telescopes to check out the four large Galilean moons, arrayed in a line around Jupiter’s equator. The bright star Spica of Virgo is just to the lower right of it presently.
This is a good month for Saturn as well, which will come to opposition on June 15, rising in the east on the Scorpius- Sagittarius border. Good telescopes will show Saturn with its rings about as open as they can appear in the telescope. You can also see Titan, Saturn’s biggest moon, in small telescopes, easily.
The winter constellations will soon be swallowed up in the sun’s glare, but Orion is still visible, with its famed Orion Nebula, M-42, seen below the three stars marking his famed belt. Dominating the southwest is the Dog Star, Sirius, brightest star of the night sky. When Sirius vanishes into the sun’s glare in two months, this sets the period known as “Dog Days.”
The brightest star in the northwest is Capella, which is distinctively yellow in color. It is a giant star, almost exactly the same temperature as our sun, but about 100 times more luminous. Just south of it are the stellar twins, the Gemini, with Castor closer to Capella, and Pollux closer to the Little Dog Star, Procyon.
Overhead, the Big Dipper rides high. Good scouts know to take its leading pointers north to Polaris, the famed Pole Star. For us, it sits 30 degrees (our latitude) high in the north, while the rotating earth beneath makes all the other celestial bodies spin around it from east to west. If you drop south from the bowl of the Big Dipper, Leo the Lion rides high. Note the Egyptian Sphinx is based on the shape of this lion in the sky.
Taking the arc in the Dipper’s handle, we “arc” southeast to bright orange Arcturus, the brightest star of spring. It is cooler than our yellow sun, and much poorer in heavy elements. Some believe its strange motion reveals it to be an invading star from another smaller galaxy, now colliding with the Milky Way in Sagittarius in the summer sky.
by the Escambia Amateur Astronomers begin at sunset
Pensacola Beach Gulfside Pavillion Friday V May 5th Saturday V May 6th
Big Lagoon State Park Saturday V May 20th
East parking lot near observation tower
Battery Worth on Ft. Pickens Friday V May 26th
Come celebrate the dark sky. Remember to come early, for the park gates close at sunset.
For more information on the Escambia Amateur Astronomers, visit www.eaaa.net or call Dr. Wayne Wooten in the Physical Sciences Department of Pensacola State College at (850) 484-1152. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Join them on Facebook at Escambia Amateur Astronomers Association.
May Evening Sky Map at skymaps.com for a list of the best objects to view with the naked eye, binoculars & scopes