Here is a quick look at what’s happening astronomically in May 2013. Mark your calendars.
Last Quarter Moon: May 2 (South at sunrise)
New Moon: May 9 (No moon visible)
First Quarter Moon: May 17 (South at sunset)
Full Moon: May 24 (East at sunset, May 25 west at sunrise)
Last Quarter Moon: May 31 (South at sunrise)
Evening: Saturn, Jupiter (Mercury and Venus later in month)
Morning: None, Mars is too close to the Sun to be seen
May 14: The Sun enters the astronomical constellation Taurus
May 20: The Sun enters the astrological sign Gemini
May 1: May Day or Beltane (an ancient Gaelic festival celebrated in Ireland and Scotland) is celebrated though out the world as the beginning of summer. May 1 is a cross-quarter day. Cross-quarter days are half-way between the beginning and end of each season. For thousands of years, cross-quarter days were and still are used to signal the unofficial beginning of the seasons. In the US Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer.
May 5-6: Eta Aquarids, very favorable this year. The dust and small pebbles causing the meteors are from Comet Halley’s tail. Go here for more information.
May 18: Open House at Chamberlin Observatory
May 19-21: Conjunction (planets appear next to each other) with Jupiter and Venus in the west just after sunset. This is an excellent opportunity to see the planets move in their orbits. Look west starting at 8:40pm MDT. Venus will be the brightest followed by Jupiter. Both planets will be visible to the unaided eye.
May 22-31: Mercury comes out of the sunset glare to join Jupiter and Venus in a triple conjunction in the west after sunset. The three will change positions relative to each other daily as if someone is throwing dice. Again, look west starting at 8:40pm MDT. Mercury is the dimmest of the three and most difficult to see. Using binoculars will help to find Mercury, but make sure the Sun has set.
May 28: Comet PanStarrs will be five degrees below Polaris, the North Star. You will need dark skies and binoculars or small telescope to see it.
May 24th, 1543: Nicolaus Copernicus, the first astronomer in modern times to suggest a sun centered solar system, dies.
May 25th, 1961: US President John F. Kennedy announces support for a manned mission to the moon to a joint session of Congress, to be accomplished before 1970.
Wishing you clear skies