Apr 30

Sky Report: May 2-8

The moon is near the star cluster M35 on the 4th and the Beehive Star Cluster on the 7th. Both show a 5° circle which is approximately what you would see with 10X binoculars. Graphics created with SkySafariAstronomy.com.

The planetary action continues to be in the morning sky where, from left to right (or east to west) strung in a line are Venus, Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn, although they’re no longer equally-spaced as they were last week. Brilliant Venus and Jupiter – the two brightest planets – are especially close on the morning of the 2nd when they’re separated by a scant 1½° and are a wonderful sight in binoculars. Venus is moving eastward away from Jupiter, which is relatively stationary against the background stars, and on the next morning they’re separated by 2½°. The gap increases daily and is 7° on the 8th when you’ll no longer see them together in binoculars. Look about an hour before sunrise.

Venus is on the far side of its orbit and is moving around the sun, slowly leaving the morning sky. It won’t be in line with and behind the sun until the end of October, but it slowly becomes progressively lower and harder to see between now and then, and in practice we’ll last see it in August.

Mars and Saturn are much fainter, although still as bright as the brightest stars, and they’re to the upper right of Jupiter and Venus. Mars orbits the sun far faster than Saturn, so it’s leaving Saturn behind and the gap between them will only continue to increase all year.

Elsewhere, Mercury is very low in the west-northwest in evening twilight for the first few days of May. You might see it 45 minutes or so after sunset when it will have an altitude of no more than 8°, so a flat horizon is essential. Binoculars are essential too. On the 2nd Mercury is 5° to the lower right of the extremely thin crescent moon, at the 5 o’clock position from the moon. The Pleiades Star Cluster is farther to the lower right of Mercury but you’re not likely to see it with the sky so bright. The bright star to the left of the moon is Aldebaran in Taurus.

The moon passes close to two bright star clusters this week, which are M35 in Gemini on the 4th, when they’re only 2° apart, and the Beehive Cluster in Cancer on the 7th, when they’re 3½° apart, and on both occasions you’ll see the moon and cluster together in any binoculars. The Beehive should be the state star cluster of Utah, but there’s no such thing. Google can give you the particulars on the star clusters.

And on the 6th the moon is in line with Castor and Pollux, the heads of the Gemini twins; Pollux is closest to the moon which is less than 3° distant. Castor is an additional 4½° to the right.

The Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower peaks on the morning of the 6th when you might see up to a dozen swift meteors an hour coming from the east.

Stay tuned for a partial eclipse of the moon on the night of May 15th.

Through a 2021 grant from the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity and the Kane County Office of Tourism, Stellar Vista Observatory provides portable telescopes and tripod mounted binocular kits on loan for free to residents and visitors in Kane County. Enhance enjoyment of the night sky! For details or to request a loan, visit https://stellarvistaobservatory.org/discover-the-night-sky/ or drop in to the Kane County Office of Tourism.

The Sky Report is presented as a public service by the Stellar Vista Observatory, a nonprofit organization based in Kanab, Utah, which provides opportunities for people to observe, appreciate, and comprehend our starry night sky. Additional information is at www.stellarvistaobservatory.org. Send questions and comments to John@StargazingAdventures.org.

About the Author:

John Mosley was Program Supervisor of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles for 27 years and is the author of “Stargazing for Beginners” and “Stargazing with Binoculars and Telescopes”. He and his wife live in St. George where he continues to stargaze from his retirement home while serving on the advisory committee for Stellar Vista Observatory.

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