Skywatch Line for Wednesday, May 4th and Thursday, May 5th, 2016

This is the Dudley Observatory Skywatch Line for Wednesday, May 4th and Thursday, May 5th written by Louis Suarato

The 6% illuminated, waning crescent Moon leads the Sun into the horizon Wednesday, returning Thursday morning as a thin, 3% illuminated crescent. The Moon reaches perigee, its closest approach to Earth during this lunar cycle, at 12:13 a.m. Friday, at the distance of 222,344 miles. With the Moon at perigee on the same day as the New Moon, expect higher, and lower, than normal tides. After sunset, 99.3% illuminated Jupiter shines approximately 55 degrees over the southeastern horizon. Thursday night, the largest satellite in our solar system, Ganymede, projects its shadow on the solar system’s largest planet beginning at 7:40 p.m., and at 10:53 p.m., the shadow transit ends. Mars and Saturn join Jupiter, rising at 9:48 p.m., and 10:19 p.m. respectively. Both planets are approaching opposition, with the red planet’s occurring on May 22nd, and the ringed planet’s occurring on June 3rd.

As Saturn rises above the atmospheric interference, look to its lower right for four globular clusters. Very close to the planet, at about 5 o’clock, is NGC 6235, or Mel 154. This globular cluster shines at magnitude 7.20. Below this globular cluster, you’ll find three more, heading down from left to right. The top cluster is NGC 6284 or Mel 162. This cluster of stars shines at magnitude 7.43. To its lower right is Globular Cluster M19, also known as NGC 6273 or Mel 160. M19 shines at magnitude 7.47. To M19’s lower right is cluster M62, or NGC 6266 and Mel 159. M62 shines at magnitude 7.39. Use a medium to large telescope to locate this series of star clusters.

The peak period for the Eta Aquariid meteor shower occurs on Thursday. These meteors originate from dust tail of Halley’s Comet. The best time for viewing this shower is before dawn. With the Moon approaching its new phase and rising early in the morning, the outlook is good this year. The Eta Aquariids usually produce about 70 meteors per hour. This shower is best seen from the southern hemisphere, so expect to see fewer meteors from our hemisphere. The constellation Aquarius begins to rise around 3:30 a.m., so look towards the eastern horizon for this meteor shower’s radiant.

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