The evening skies of May begin with Arcturus just above the eastern
horizon! With a visual magnitude of 0, Arcturus is the brightest
star is the northern hemisphere and the 4th brightest star in the night
skies! South of Arcturus, you will see two bright “objects.”
Jupiter is the brighter of the two (magnitude -2.4) and higher in the
sky. Spica has a visual magnitude of +1.05 so it seems rather dim
compared to Arcturus and Jupiter but it’s the 15th brightest star in
the night skies.
Jupiter will be visible all night long on May 1
and throughout most of May. Jupiter is a great target for the
naked eye, a pair of binoculars, or a telescope. To the un-aided
eye, Jupiter looks like a very bright star. Add a good pair of
binoculars and suddenly there is a disk that is easy to identify as a
planet. If your binoculars are powerful enough, you might
see the 4 Galilean moons: Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. They are
easy to see through a 5” telescope. Galileo discovered them in
1610, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy re-discovering them for
Saturn will also be visible through much of
May. On May 1, it will rise about 11:15 PM and be visible for the
rest of the night. By the end of the month, it will rise just
after 9:00 PM. Saturn is easy to spot with the naked eye.
With a visual magnitude of +0.1, it’s almost as bright as
Arcturus. If you want to see somebody get interested in the night
sky, point out Saturn, then hand them a good set of binoculars or,
better yet, let them look at the planet through a small
telescope. Almost everyone smiles when they see those rings!
Mars will be visible near the western horizon
just after sundown. Venus will be visible near the eastern
horizon just before sunrise.
On the night of May 5 and 6, this year’s Eta
Aquarids Meteor shower will be at its peak. The meteors will
appear to originate near the eastern horizon. Peak viewing will
be in the early morning.
The Hercules Cluster (M13) can be observed just
about every night! With a visual magnitude of +5.8, it can be
viewed with the naked eye on very clear, dark nights. If you take
the time to head up on the beach or get away from city light pollution
by driving to Ramp 27, you will have a better chance of spotting
it. You can locate it by mentally drawing a line from
Arcturus towards a very bright star to the NE, Vega. (Note:
Vega doesn’t rise until 9:00 PM on May 1) The Hercules Cluster is about
2/3 of the length of that line. It will be difficult to see
without binoculars or a telescope. If you have the option
of viewing M13 through binoculars or a telescope, you will be amazed at
how spectacular it is!
Highlights for April 2017
is Messier 83 (M83), the Southern Pinwheel Galaxy. M83 is a
relatively close, barred spiral galaxy. It’s only 16 million
light years away. With a visual magnitude of +7.15,
you cannot see it with the naked eye, but you can spot it with
binoculars. The “bar” is the bright stripe of stars that
goes across the center of the galaxy.
was discovered in 1752 by Nicholas Louis de Lacaille. It was the
third Galaxy ever discovered. M31 (the Andromeda Galaxy) and its
satellite M32 were the only other galaxies known to man. Scientists
estimate there are 40 billion stars in M83.
This is M94. Like
M83, it’s close to us, too. M94 is only 14 million light years
away and, like M83, is believed to contain 40 billion stars. With
a visual magnitude of +7.96, you can probably spot it through a good
pair of binoculars--but you really need a telescope to define its
unique structure. M94 has a very bright core surrounded by an
inner ring that some observers call the “starburst ring.” The starburst
ring is believed to be an area of star formation. Surrounding the
starburst ring is a 2nd ring of young, blue star clusters. And
finally, beyond that ring is a faint field of older, yellow stars.
anyone who is curious about the “bright stars” that appear in this
image, they are very distant elliptical galaxies. The very bright
one above and to the right of M94 is PGC 2180382. It’s a +16.3
magnitude galaxy that is 630 million light years away. The
fainter one just below and to the right of M94 is PGC 2177103.
Its magnitude is +17.75 and it’s believed to be a billion light years
1st Quarter is May 3rd
Full Moon is the 10th
3rd Quarter is the 19th
New Moon is the 25th