Astronomy Club of Asheville May 2016 Sky Events

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1 May 2016 Sky Events The Planets this Month - page 2 Planet Highlights - page 6 Moon Phases - page 9 May 5 th Eta Aquariid Meteor Shower - page 10 May 9 th Transit of Mercury - page 12

2 May 2016 Sky Events the Planets Until late May, Jupiter is the only planet visible at dusk this month. As darkness moves in, Jupiter can be found high in the south within the boundaries of the constellation Leo. Mars joins Jupiter in the early evening sky during the last third of the month, rising in the southeast at sunset along the Scorpius/Libra border. Mars is at opposition (opposite the Sun from Earth) on May 22 nd, and it s closest to Earth for the year just eight days later on May 30 th. At a distance of just 0.50 AUs (astronomical units), this is the closest opposition of Mars in 11 years. It s just 47 million miles away (half the Earth-Sun distance), and it shines at a brilliant magnitude of briefly rivaling Jupiter! This is a great time to look for telescopic details on the red planet.

3 May 2016 Sky Events the Planets The Moon Joins the Planet Jupiter On the evenings of May 13-15, the waxing Moon joins the bright planet Jupiter in the constellation Leo. The two solar system objects will appear closest on the night of May 14 th when they are separated by about 4 and located about 60 above the horizon. Although these 2 celestial objects appear close in our 2-dimensional view, Jupiter is some 467 million miles behind the Moon! Image courtesy of Sky & Telescope

4 May 2016 Sky Events the Planets Saturn, Mars and the Full Moon After dark on the nights of May 20-22, look SE to locate the planets Saturn and Mars with the Full Moon. Mars reaches opposition on May 22 nd, and Saturn reaches opposition on June 3 rd. So both planets will be near their closest approach to Earth for the year, appearing very bright, and at their largest in telescopes for the year as well. The bright red giant star Antares in Scorpius will also shine with an orange tint. It s name (from the ancient Greek) literally means rival of Mars (in orange brightness). Mars is the Roman name for the Greek war god, Ares. Image courtesy of Sky & Telescope

5 May 2016 Sky Events the Planets The planet Saturn can be found late night this month rising at 10:45 p.m. EDT on May 1 st and at 8:38 p.m. EDT on May 31 st. So good telescopic views of Saturn will be a late night affair this month. Saturn reaches opposition closest position to Earth for the year on June 3 rd. Venus, Uranus and Neptune are all too close to the Sun in the sky to observe easily this month. You will have only one chance to see Mercury this month, and that is during the daytime hours of May 9 th when the planet reaches a very special inferior conjunction passage between the Earth and the Sun. The planet Mercury will transit (pass in front of) the Sun, as seen from Earth, for the first time since You will need not only clear skies but also magnification and solar eye protection to observe this event. Find out more on page 12.

6 May 2016 Planet Highlights Planet Distance from Earth Constellation(s) Diameter in arc seconds Magnitude Comments Page 1 of 3 Mercury 0.6 AUs Venus 1.7 AUs Mars 0.5 AUs Aries Reaches inferior conjunction and transit on May 9 th Aries & Taurus Scorpius & Libra Too close to the Sun to be observed this month At opposition on May 22 nd

7 May 2016 Planet Highlights Planet Distance from Earth Constellation(s) Diameter in arc seconds Magnitude Comments Page 2 of 3 Jupiter 5.1 AUs Leo In great viewing position this month Saturn 9.1 AUs Ophiuchus Positioned in the late night sky all month Uranus 21 AUs Pisces In the morning twilight & not easily observed this month

8 May 2016 Planet Highlights Planet Distance from Earth Constellation(s) Diameter in arc seconds Magnitude Comments Page 3 of 3 Neptune 30 AUs Aquarius In the morning twilight & not easily observed this month

9 The Moon May 2016 New Moon 6 th 3:30 p.m. First Quarter 13 th 1:02 p.m. Full Moon** 21 st 5:14 p.m. Last Quarter 29 th 8:12 a.m. ** The Flower Moon Unless otherwise indicated, all times are EDT

10 May 2016 Sky Events Eta Aquariid Meteor Shower Peaks May 5 th The Eta Aquariid meteor shower peaks before dawn on Thursday, May 5 th, this year. This shower typically produces close to 50 visible meteors per hour lasting for 2 or 3 days. Because the radiant point of these meteors is in the southern hemisphere constellation Aquarius, northerners are not positioned well for spotting many of the Aquariid meteors. The ones that do reach us can make the early morning rise rewarding. The Eta Aquariids are debris from the orbit of Halley s Comet. Fortunately, moonlight will not interfere with the viewing this year; so, if you have clear skies and a dark-sky location, you should be treated to a spectacular show in the pre-dawn hours on May 5 th to the 7 th.

11 May 2016 Sky Events Eta Aquariid Meteor Shower Peaks May 5 th May 5-7, Just before dawn

12 May 9, 2016 Transit of Mercury On May 9, 2016, a Monday, our solar system s smallest and innermost planet will transit across the disk of the Sun, as seen from Earth, for the first time in nearly a decade, and here in the Asheville, North Carolina region, with clear skies, the entire 7½ hour event will be visible. This Mercury transit may be thought of as a special type of partial (very partial) eclipse of the Sun by a planet! To observe this rare Mercury transit event and spot the disk of this elusive planet in front of the Sun, you will need 3 things: a clear sky, magnification (binoculars or a telescope), and proper protection for your eyes while using those binoculars or telescope. Remember it is not safe to look directly at the Sun without proper solar eye protection.

13 May 9, 2016 Transit of Mercury This illuistration shows the approximate path and timings for Mercury s transit across the Sun as seen from Asheville, NC. (Chart courtesy of Sky & Telescope) Only the two interior planets (Mercury and Venus) can ever transit across the Sun s disk, as seen from Earth. Due to Mercury s speedy orbit around the Sun (only 88 days), its transits, although not common, occur more often than those of Venus. Mercury transits occur only in early May or early November, and only about 13 times per century. The last Mercury transit occurred on November 8, 2006.

14 May 9, 2016 Transit of Mercury During its transit, Mercury will appear as a tiny dot slowly gliding across the face of the Sun. To see the small disk of Mercury, you will need a magnified image with proper solar eye protection. Unlike Venus, whose planetary disk is large enough for the human eye to discern without magnification, Mercury is a much smaller planet and more distant from Earth during a transit. Above image: 2003 Mercury transit from NASA SOHO. Find out where to safely observe this rare Mercury transit in the Asheville area at this link. Find out even more about this Mercury transit at this informative link.

15 End

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