What's Up - May 2015

The nights continue to get longer and the temperature continues to drop so be sure to rug up well when out under the stars. The summer Milky Way constellations around Orion are low in the west at the start of the night and will soon be too close to the Sun for observation until later in the year. As Orion sets look to the west and you will see the Scorpion rising meaning that the central bulge of the Milky Way is close to coming into opposition making the next few months an ideal time to photograph or observe this rich region of the night sky all night long.

With Crux high in the sky it is a good time to do some observations of star colours. Look at The Pointers and see if you can distinguish their different colours. Alpha Centauri is yellow in contrast to the distinctive blue of Beta Centauri. Now look at Crux (Southern Cross) and compare the blue of the bottom star (Alpha) to the orange of the top star (Gamma). Then look at the body of the Scorpion and find Antares a red giant star. Antares literally translates as Rival of Mars.

Mercury is at its greatest elongation from the Sun on the 7th in the west but just six degrees above the horizon making it very difficult to spot in the twilight sky. Venus shines brilliantly in the Western sky after sunset and is joined by a waxing crescent Moon on the 21st and 22nd. Mars is too close to the Sun. Jupiter is to the North after sunset so any observation is best done early in the night. Saturn is at opposition on the 23rd meaning it will be visible all night and is at its closest point to Earth meaning a perfect time to observe this ringed jewel. Uranus rises in the East just before sunrise and Neptune rises in the East around 1am.