Title: May Skywatch Highlights
Location: Hawaiian Islands
Date / Time: May 2013
Comments: Four bright planets are viewable in May's evening sky: Saturn, Jupiter, Venus, & Mercury. Brilliant VENUS emerges in the west-northwest just after sunset. Look for our sister planet, blazing at magnitude minus -3.7, just above the western horizon, starting the second week in May. Although it appears only a few degrees above the WNW horizon early in the month, its visibility improves in the following weeks. Venus climbs to meet Jupiter in late May, but not before Mercury joins the show for a series of conjunctions. As Venus appears higher & higher in the western sky after sunset, dazzling JUPITER sinks lower & lower. Jupiter appears between the horns of Taurus the Bull and, at magnitude minus -1.7, shines brighter than Sirius, the brightest star. On May 15th, looking west at about 7:20PM, you should be able to spot Venus, 12? below Jupiter, down near the western horizon. On May 21st, at around 7:45PM, Venus will be 6? below Jupiter, and MERCURY joins the party, 2? below Venus. Mercury is dimmer than the other two planets, but still holds its own at magnitude minus -1. On May 23rd, around 8PM, the 3 planets form a triangle: Venus below Jupiter; Mercury to the right of Venus. And on May 26th, the 3 planets form a perfect equilateral triangle, each planet only 2 degrees apart from the others. Finally, on May 30th, around 7:45PM, the 3 planets form a line, with Mercury on top, Venus in the middle, & Jupiter at the bottom. Jupiter sets at 8:05. While the 3 planets huddle in the west at dusk, SATURN rises in the east. At mid-month, Saturn lies nearly 30? high in the southeast an hour after sunset, & remains viewable until morning twilight. The ringed planet begins May among the background stars of Libra, and crosses into Virgo on the 13th. Saturn shines at around 0 magnitude, & appears 15? east (to the left) of Spica, Virgo's brightest star. Saturn forms a triangle with Spica & Arcturus, the bright star which appears about 30? above/north of Saturn. Saturn appears noticeably brighter than Spica, & slightly dimmer than Arcturus. Notice Saturn's golden hue compared to blue-white Spica, & yellow-orange Arcturus. Saturn's rings open wider than they've been since 2006, tilting at 18? to our line of sight from Earth, & afford impressive views through even a small telescope. While 4 of the 5 naked-eye planets are viewable this month, we still have another month before Mars reappears on the scene. MARS emerges in the pre-dawn sky in late June. The Southern Cross, (Crux), is viewable this month (from Hawaiian Islands). To view Crux, you'll need an unobstructed view to the southern horizon. At mid-month, Crux rises high enough for viewing by 8PM. At around 9:30PM, Crux should be upright, low on the southern horizon (nearly due South). Look for 2 bright stars, Alpha & Beta Centauri, which "point" to the Cross to their right/west. At this time of evening, you should be able to see all the way from Polaris, (the North Star), to the bottom star in the Southern Cross, Acrux; (An important Polynesian north-south navigational star-line, "Kaiwikuamo'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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