Star Date: May 2009

Moon & Planets—Mercury is visible in the west-northwest as May opens. However, the speedy planet soon disappears from view in just a few days, as it sets earlier each night in the bright twilight. Saturn is located in Leo and is high in south as darkness falls, setting well after midnight. The moon is just below Regulus on May 2nd and below Saturn on the next night, making it easy to locate these two objects. The morning sky offers the most in planetary viewing. Jupiter rises early but remains low in the southeast as it hangs fairly close to the horizon. Venus is the brightest object in predawn sky with much fainter Mars positioned to its lower left. Binoculars will help to spot Mars as both these objects rise in the due east. The last quarter moon rises with Jupiter around 3 a.m. on May 17th. It takes four more days for the now crescent moon to reach the vicinity of Venus and Mars on May 21.

Constellations—Leo the Lion is probably the most recognizable spring constellation. It actually looks like a reclining lion with its distinctive head in the shape of a backward question mark. Hydra the Water Serpent is found under the Leo and is the longest constellation in the sky. Starting low in the west with its trapezoidal head, this fairly faint string of stars covers over 100 degrees of sky as it traverses the southern horizon meandering toward the southeast. The brightest star in Leo is first magnitude Regulus. This bright white star is also called the Lion’s Heart. South and a little west of Regulus is the brightest member of Hydra, a reddish second magnitude star known as the Dragon’s Heart.

— Craig Linde

Courtesy of the Marquette Astronomical Society, which meets four times a year. The next meeting is on June 19 at Green Garden Hill in West Branch Township. Visit www.geocities.com/sstobbelaar/mqtastro.html for details.

 

 

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