Skywatch Line for Wednesday, May 20th, and Thursday, May 21st, 2020

This is the Dudley Observatory Skywatch Line for Wednesday, May 20th, and Thursday, May 21st, written by Louis Suarato.

The 3% illuminated, waning crescent Moon sets at 6:12 p.m. Wednesday. The Moon rises as a thinner crescent at 5:03 Thursday morning. Mercury and Venus shine 2 degrees apart over the west-northwestern horizon after sunset. Mercury is on the far side of the Sun, while Venus is on the side closer to Earth, making Mercury 3.5 times more distant. Venus is the much brighter of the two innermost planets, shining at -4.7 magnitude, and 6.4% illuminated. Jupiter rises at 11 minutes past midnight, followed by Saturn 15 minutes later. The two gas giants will be 4.5 degrees apart. Mars rises at 2:13 a.m. in the constellation Aquarius.

Get up and out an hour before sunrise to look for Comet C/2020 F8 (SWAN). Use binoculars to scan low over the northeastern horizon for this 4th magnitude comet. The comet will be about 15 degrees below the Double Cluster. The Double Cluster can be found below Cassiopeia. This week may be the best week to view the comet before it is lost in the Sun’s glare. Comet SWAN reaches perihelion, its closest distance to the Sun, on Tuesday, May 26th.

On May 20, 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope sent its first photograph from space. The photo was of a double star, 1,260 light-years away. Also on May 20, in 1825, George P. Bond was the first to photograph a star (Vega), and a double star (Mizar).

The Albany Area Amateur Astronomers invite you to join them for their monthly meeting, which will again be held online. The speaker this month will be Dr. Valerie Rapson, Director of the Dudley Observatory. Dr, Rapson’s presentation will be “Curiosity, Insight, Perseverance, and Ingenuity” about Mars exploration. To supplement the current activities being conducted by the Mars rover, Curiosity, and Insight lander, this July, NASA will launch the Mars 2020 rover, Perseverance. The instrumentation will include a new drone device called Ingenuity. The meeting will be held Thursday, May 21 beginning at 7:30 pm via Zoom.

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