Skywatch Line for Wednesday, May 1st, and Thursday, May 2nd, 2019

This is the Dudley Observatory Skywatch Line for Wednesday, May 1st, and Thursday, May 2nd, written by Louis Suarato.

The 9% illuminated, waning crescent Moon sets at 4:32 p.m. Wednesday. Mars sets at 11:17 p.m. in the west-northwest.Jupiter rises in the southeast 2 minutes after Mars sets. Saturn rises in Sagittarius at 1:09 a.m. Thursday. Thursday morning provides a binocular challenge. Find a clear eastern horizon to see the 6 illuminated, waning crescent Moon about 5 degrees to the upper right of Venus. Moonrise occurs 40 minutes before sunrise, so be careful of the Sun’s glare.

The time around the New Moon provides a good opportunity to see the Milky Way. We see the Milky Way every time we view the stars, since the stars in our sky are part of the Milky Way galaxy. When most people talk about seeing the Milky Way, they are talking about looking into the core of the Milky Way galaxy. A requirement for viewing the Milky Way is to travel away from light polluted skies. We are fortunate to be close to the dark skies of the Catskill and Adirondack Mountains. Closer to home, we also have sites used for star parties by the Albany Area Amateur Astronomers such as the Landis Arboretum in Esperance and Grafton Lakes State Park. The see the core of the Milky Way, you must wait for the constellation Sagittarius to rise. These nights, Sagittarius rises in the southeast around midnight. By 4 a.m., you will be able to see the arc of the Milky Way, from Sagittarius to Cassiopeia.

There are many who think the Andromeda Galaxy is the closest galaxy to our Milky Way. Although the Andromeda Galaxy may be the closest spiral galaxy, the closest known galaxy is the Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy. This galaxy is 42,000 light-years from the Milky Way’s galactic center, and 25,000 light-years from our solar system. That is closer to our solar system than the Sun is to the galactic center. Our solar system is 30,000 light-years away from the center of the Milky Way. Astronomers believe the Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy will eventually merge with the Milky Way, combining its approximately 1 billion stars with the 200 to 400 billion stars already comprising our galaxy.

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