Title: May Skywatch Highlights
Location: Hawaiian Islands
Date / Time: May 2011
Comments: The morning sky is at its best this month, with a spectacular twilight gathering of planets. Four of the five naked-eye planets, MERCURY, VENUS, MARS , & JUPITER cluster near one another, rising in the east before dawn in the first 3 weeks of May. These planets do not rise until around 5AM, so you'll have only about 30-45 minutes to view them before daybreak. The 4 planets show up in different positions, relative to one another, each new morning. (Uranus & Neptune also lurk in the east before sunrise, but you'll need binoculars or a telescope to spot them). VENUS-JUPITER CONJUNCTION: On May 11th, at about 5:10AM, Venus and Jupiter, the two brightest points of light in the sky, will appear right next to each other, (about 1 Full Moon-width apart). Look for the brilliant pair approx. 10-degrees above the eastern horizon. Jupiter will be on the left; bright at minus 2 magnitude, tho' not as bright as Venus (minus 3.9). Look for Mercury about 1.5 degrees to the lower right of Venus. You might need a pair of binoculars to spot dim Mars, (mag. 1.3), about 5 degrees below, and to the left, of Venus. Over the next ten days, Jupiter will appear higher in the sky each morning, while the other 3 planets will hunker down near the horizon. For the remainder of the month, the planets will appear to move apart. From May 28 ? 31, the 4 planets form what looks like a "string of pearls," with Jupiter at the top, (20 degrees above the eastern horizon). Mercury will be AT the horizon, just below (still brilliant) Venus, while Mars will then be a bit easier to spot, between Venus & Jupiter. Morning Planet Show Video: (youtube.com). Spectacular SATURN stands alone as the only naked-eye-viewable planet in our evening sky. Saturn lies in the constellation Virgo, & appears just above (NW of) Spica, Virgo's brightest star. Saturn shines at magnitude 0.6 which makes it slightly brighter than Spica, and a bit fainter than Arcturus (Hokule'a), which appears NE of the planet. Notice the color contrast between golden Saturn, blue-white Spica, & yellow-orange Arcturus. At mid-month, look for Saturn about 2/3 of the way up in the south at dusk, & high overhead at 9PM. At the end of May, look for Saturn high overhead at dusk, & setting by 2:30AM. Saturn's rings now tilt at 8-degrees from our line of sight, affording wonderful telescopic views of their various features all month. The Southern Cross (Crux) rises in the southeast around 8:30PM in early May, & by 6:30PM at the end of the month. To view Crux, you'll need an unobstructed view to the southern horizon. Acrux, the bottom star of the Cross, rises only about six degrees above the horizon at it highest point. The Cross stands upright, & nearly due south, at 10PM in early May & at 8:30PM at month's end. Look for 2 bright stars low in the south, Alpha & Beta Centauri, which point to the Roman-style "cross" asterism to their right (west). Note that the Hawaiian Islands are located at one of the few latitudes from where we can see all the way from the North Star, Polaris (Hokupa'a), to the Southern Cross, a Polynesian navigational "star line" called Ka Iwikuamo'o, "The Backbone." For a May Hawaiian sky map, visit Bishop Museum Planetarium www.bishopmuseum.org/planetarium (bishopmuseum.org).

Maintained by Roz Reiner - Kauai, Hawaii

 

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