The four-planet dance of 2011 closes with a great array of spaciously-placed planets. Jupiter rises far above the others while Venus sinks to the horizon. See for yourself!
Events for May 14
Spica will shine brightly over the moon. A Jovian-Dual Transit will occur today. See this page for more information. What's the belt of Venus in the earth's shadow. Find out.
Events for May 15
These next events are much similar to those which happened last week, May 7 and 8. Space&Telescope write "As night descends, look west-northwest for Pollux and Castor lined up almost horizontally. They're separated by about three finger-widths at arm's length." Procyon is far to the right with Capella even farther. 10 Hygiea is still at opposition this week, at magnitude 9.2 in southern Libra. "Hygiea is the fourth-largest asteroid; it appears as dim as it does because its surface is quite black."
Events for May 16
The Big Dipper is northwest tonight. "Just a few weeks ago it was horizontal! That sort of quick change happens to star patterns passing near the zenith. (Can you can figure out why? Answer next week.)" Sky&Telescope challenges you to reason why. You can research 'zenith' here.
Events for May 17
Tonight, the moon will be full, casting eerie shadows in the dark. At 7:09 am EDT, the moon will be at its fullest. Antares rests below it tonight.
Events for May 18
The summer triangle is back again. [Go to the link and look under date May 12 to read more.] Another dual-shadow transit takes place today. Check out this page for more info.
Events for May 19
A new constellation, Cassiopeia is very low and looks like a wide 'w' rather than how it is supposed to look: a 'flattened m.' (It depends where you live though) If you're very south (Florida, Cuba, etc.) Cassiopeia is completely out of sight below the northern horizon.
The moon will also cordially visit the teapot! EarthSky writes this about this event: "Tonight’s moon beams in front of the constellation Sagittarius the Archer. By around midnight, the Sagittarian Teapot will climb above the southeast horizon, with the moon sitting atop the Teapot. The Teapot is an asterism – a recognizable star pattern – in the western half of Sagittarius. But you probably won’t make out the Teapot tonight because of the lunar glare." Also note, midnight is the time to see it. It just clears the horizon at that time. When June passes, ten o'clock pm will be the key time.
Events for May 20
Even though the wondrous Planet Dance of 2011 ended, the planets are still visible, just not as close as they were. Over the next few days until Sunday, Venus forms a right triangle (about 2 degrees wide) with Mercury and Mars. Mercury is below it, while Mars is to its left. You need binoculars to see the two fainter planets: Mars and Mercury. [Meanwhile] Jupiter soars ahead of them all, acting like the 'king of the planets,' as it is known.
In the evening, Spica, Corvus and Virgo are all able to be seen, as the diagram below shows us.
Events for May 21
"Arcturus is the brightest star very high in the southeast after dark. Vega, equally bright, is much lower in the northeast. A third of the way from Arcturus to Vega look for the dim semicircle of Corona Borealis, the Northern Crown, with its one moderately bright star, Alphecca. Two-thirds of the way from Arcturus to Vega is the dim Keystone of Hercules." writes Sky&Telescope as they wrap up their week.
Planet Positions for the week of May 14 - May 21
Mercury- lowest planet in the sky at dawn
Venus- brightest planet at dawn closest to the horizon
Mars- to the upper-left of Venus at dawn
Jupiter- Highest of all the dawn planets; second brightest
Saturn- magnitude 0.6 in Virgo; only planet really visible at night, the others are all around the time of dawn.
Uranus- mag 5.9 in western Pisces; very low in the east before dawn
Neptune- mag 7.9 in Aquarius, southeast before dawn
Solar System Calendar
14 May 2011 10:26:45 Conjunction of Saturn with the Moon, 7.6° 14 May 2011 22:12:40 Max. South Latitude of Pluto, 4.5° 15 May 2011 11:24:27 Moon at Perigee, 362135 km from Earth 16 May 2011 09:24:44 Conjunction of Mercury and Venus, 1° 24' 17 May 2011 11:08:39 Full Moon 18 May 2011 06:45:08 Mercury apparently closest to Venus, 1° 21' 18 May 2011 23:25:19 Min. North Declination of the Moon, -23.4° 19 May 2011 09:03:03 Ascending Knot Passage of the Moon 20 May 2011 01:16:57 Conjunction of Mercury and Mars in Right Ascension, 2° 21' 21 May 2011 01:19:33 Conjunction of Mercury and Mars, 2° 9' 21 May 2011 08:14:50 Mercury apparently closest to Mars, 2° 8'
Have a great viewing this week!