Skywatch Line for Wednesday, May 18th and Thursday, May 19th, 2016

This is the Dudley Observatory Skywatch Line for Wednesday, May 18th and Thursday, May 19th written by Louis Suarato

The 92% illuminated, waxing gibbous Moon rises at 5:12 p.m.,Wednesday. The Moon will reach apogee, its furthest distance from Earth during this lunar cycle, at 6:06 p.m. Wednesday evening, making the next Full Moon, on the 21st, the smallest of the year. After the skies darken, you’ll notice a bright star about 3 degrees to the upper right of the Moon. That star is Spica, the brightest star in the constellation Virgo, and the 15th brightest star in our night sky. May 18th is the birth date of Croatian Jesuit priest and astronomer, Roger Joseph Boscovich. Born in 1711, Boscovich discovered the absence of a lunar atmosphere in 1753. It has been since discovered that the Moon does have an atmosphere, consisting of the gases sodium and potassium, and as thin as the air where the International Space Station circles Earth. Boscovich is quoted as saying “Prejudice for regularity and simplicity is a source of error that has only too often infected philosophy.”

Mars rises at 8:35 p.m., appearing larger, and shining brighter, in more than a decade, a few days before reaching opposition. Saturn follows about an hour later. The gap between Mars and Saturn will grow to 15 degrees by the end of the month. Jupiter will be about 50 degrees over the southern horizon by nightfall. Mercury reaches aphelion on Thursday, as it, and Venus are hidden in the glow of the Sun.

Although the conditions aren’t optimal for viewing deep sky objects, you may want to view the globular cluster M5. This beautiful cluster of stars can be found approximately 25 degrees below Arcturus and above Mars. M5 is one of the largest globular clusters, spanning 165 light-years in diameter. At 13 billion years old, M5 is one of the oldest globular clusters in the Milky Way. It is 24,500 light-years away, and may contain 100,000 to 500,000 stars. M5 was discovered by astronomer Gottfried Kirch in 1702 while he was searching for comets.

The Albany Area Amateur Astronomers invite you to join them for their monthly meeting that will be held Thursday, May 19th beginning at 7:30 p.m., at miSci in Schenectady. This month’s speaker is Matthew Syzdagis, Ph.D and associate Professor in Experimental Physics at the University of Albany. Dr. Syzdagis has completed extensive research in Dark Matter. His latest article is entitled “Xenon Bubble Chambers for Direct Dark Matter Detection”.

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