| Observatory |
Some observing hilights
to look forward to...
The following tips on exciting current and upcoming astronomical events
have been gathered from magazines and other sources by Dave Gamble
with the objective of giving OC RASC members a heads-up on
special personal astro-experiences to look forward to.
The pictures are from Jim Failes' photo collection. Hope you enjoy them!
Wed. May 1 - Comet PanSTARRS has now become an all night object as it progresses from Cassiopeia northeastward through Ursa Minor, passing to the lower right of Polaris around the 26th. The comet has become fainter, but the darker sky should help those searching for the tiny badminton shuttlecock with binoculars.
Thurs. May 2 - This is last quarter Moon night as the waning orb reaches the half way mark as it rises over the western mountains around midnight. This adds a great deal to the beauty of the night for late travellers, and provides a stunning daylight object high in the morning sky as seen in this picture by Jim Failes:
Sun., Mon. May 5/6 - The Eta Aquarid meteor shower will peak in the early morning hours of Monday morning. This year we will get a break since the waning crescent Moon will not interfere. The Eta Aquarids do not count as one of the most prominent meteor showers, at least from Canada's latitudes, but with the Moon out of the way it will be worthwhile to look to the southeastern pre-dawn sky to spot members of the shower of 'shooting stars' radiating upwards from the vicinity of Aquarius' water jar.
Thurs. May 9 - This is New Moon night when the Moon passes in front of the Sun leaving the entire night to itself, deep sky observers and imagers. Those in a path in the southern Pacific Ocean and parts of Australia will witness an annular eclipse where a thin circle of sunlight will silhouette the disk of the Moon. While we will not see this event from B.C., a number of our OC RASC members travelled to the central western states to witness an annular eclipse last May 20, 2012. Below is an excellent picture of last year's annular eclipse which was taken on May 20, 2012 by member Dave Whalley in Susanville, California:
Fri. May 10 - For those who were tantalized by Jim Failes' recent photo of a very thin crescent Moon, our natural satellite has now moved back into position. Binoculars will help to show a very thin crescent close to bright Venus low in the western sky after sunset. Here is Jim's photo:
Sun. May 12 - The thin crescent of the Moon will pass the width of two middle fingers south of bright Jupiter this evening, low in the western sky.
Mon. May 13 - The Moon is at apogee, or the farthest part of its orbit from the Earth this evening. We mention this because it was a contributing factor as to why the solar eclipse on May 9 in the south Pacific was annular instead of total. Being further away, the size of the Moon was not large enough to fully cover the Sun.
Fri. May 17 - Tonight the near First Quarter Moon is seen just below Leo's brightest star Regulus. Were we able to journey the 77.5 light years to visit this star, we would find an intriguing multiple star system comprising four stars organized into two pairs.
Sat. May 18 - This is First Quarter Moon night with the half slice of orange rising at dusk and culminating around midnight. Always a beautiful sight in the evening sky, and a dramatic one in any telescope. Here is a first quarter Moon picture taken by Jim Failes:
Wed. May 22 - There will be an interesting phenomenon in the sky tonight. Over the course of the night the Moon will approach ever closer to the bright star Spica in the constellation Virgo. The proximity should become quite dramatic as the two move toward the western horizon in tandem in the early morning hours.
Thurs. May 23 - The restless sky traveller, the Moon, will pay a visit to Saturn early this morning, coming to within less than the width of your three middle fingers south the ringed planet around 3am.
Fri. May 24 - Planets Mercury, Venus and Jupiter will be clumped quite closely (within the width of your three middle fingers) together for the next few evenings. Look for them low in the western sky just after sunset. Here is a picture of a similar grouping taken by Jim Failes back in 1991:
Sat. May 25 - This is Full Moon night with a difference. though it may be impractical to try to detect. A very small arc of the Moon (only 1.6 percent) will pass through the penumbral shadow of the Earth between 9 and 9.30pm PDT. The umbra is the full shadow of the Earth thrown by the Sun. The penumbra is the doughnut area around the umbra where a space observer would see a partial eclipse of the Sun. On Earth we observe a bit of the Moon just dipping into the edge of the penumbra. Examples of of the Moon moving into the penumbral shadow can be seen in this montage taken by Jim Failes:
Sun. May 26 - Tonight three planets will form a tight triangle in the early evening western sky. While Jupiter is heading down the sky as it loops toward the far side of its orbit around the Sun, Mercury and Venus are on their way up, and tonight they meet up.
Tues. May 28 - The two brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter, make a close pass in the sky this evening. Venus will be the width of your little finger north of the giant banded planet.
Fri. May 31 - The blooming month of May concludes with a celebratory Last Quarter Moon which will rise around midnight to bid May farewell and herald the start of the summery month of June.