New Moon Reporter - May 2011 Newsletter
May this year is a quiet month for night sky observing. It's a good time to work on the more subtle objects you need to complete a goal or two.
Two Best Dark Weekends: New moon nearly occurs twice this month so that gives us two weekends for stargazing. Plan to observe both the first and last weekends of the month.
May 5-7 Eta Aquariid Meteor Shower:The meteor shower is best in the southern hemisphere and is one of the best showers of the year. It's possible to view it north of the equator. It occurs just after new moon so it should put on a nice show.
Saturn is still the Best Planet. The tilt is increasing each month so the rings will look better as time passes. Unfortunately for us in the north it passes below the celestial equator and will become more murky for the next few years. If you're in the south, we envy you. Us in the north must be sure to get our last look as it drops into the thicker atmosphere.
Get out there! There's not time like the present for observing!
Remember to record what you've found at AstronomyLog.com.
There are two weeks best for observing Luna, during the first quarter (evening moon) and third quarter (morning moon). Observing of deep sky objects is best when the moon is below the horizon. For evening observing, this is near New Moon and Third Quarter.
- New moon on May 2
- First quarter on May 10
- Full on May 17
- Third quarter on May 24
Constellation of the Month - Boötes
May is the month to view Boötes. For what this constellation lacks in deep sky objects, it more than makes up for in double and multiple stars. There are 7 star groups in the AL Double Star Observing List. Not a single one is too difficult. They are all pretty easy to split even with the most modest telescope.
There's a difficult globular cluster as well. NGC 5466 is an globular cluster that's more than 51,000 light years from Earth. It's a challenge because it's dim, only magnitude 9.2. That may seem bright, and for a star that would not be a challenge, but for a deep space object (DSO) that is the surface brightness of a fuzzy. Much harder to see than a star of similar brightness. If you observe where there is much light pollution and you may not be able to find it. This globular is imaged by the Hubble in the photo above.
For evening viewing, the only choice this month is Saturn. It will be just above the southeastern horizon as the sky darkens and will be one of the first "stars" to appear. It remains near its peak of visibility for most of the night throughout April. Saturn will outshine nearby Spica, the brightest star in the constellation Virgo.
All of the other planets are visible in the morning or are too close to the sun.
Comets, Asteroids and TLP*
The Eta Aquariid meteor shower will peak on the night of May 5-6. The Eta Aquarid meteor shower is the first of two showers that occur each year as a result of Earth passing through dust released by Halley's Comet. At this time, observers in the Northern Hemisphere are likely to see about 10 meteors every hour, while Southern Hemisphere observers will see about 30 per hour.
Suggestions for the Beginning Observer
Constellation Hunter: Have fun with Boötes. This is a large constellation but not one of easiest to recognize. If your imagination is anything like mine, once you learn it, it becomes a favorite. Find the bright star Arcturus using the handle of the big dipper. Remember the phrase "Arc to Arcturus" and follow the curve formed by the handle of the Big Dipper. Heading back toward Polaris, notice the ice cream cone asterism. Who doesn't love ice cream?
Binocular Messier: If you found NCG 5466, then you're not far from M3, a much bigger and brighter globular cluster nearly due east of the little NGC 5466.
Don't forget to log your finds at AstronomyLog.com.
Wishing you clear skies and warm toes,
This is issue #2, May 2011 of the New Moon Reporter.
New Moon Reporter is the monthly newsletter of AstronomyLog.com. It is distributed to members of our online community for no charge. Enjoy!
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* Things Like Pluto
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