Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday June 13th, and 14th, 2022

This is the Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday June 13th, and 14th, written by Joe Slomka.

The Sun sets at 8:35 PM; night falls at 9:10. Tuesday’s Dawn begins at 3 AM and ends with the Sun rising at 5:13; it is also the earliest Sunrise of the year.

Monday’s Moon set at 4:13 AM and rises at 8:07 PM, appearing Full. Tuesday’s Moon sets at 5 AM, rises at 9:24 PM and sets at 6:01 AM on Wednesday. Tuesday’s Moon is officially “Full” at 6:14 AM, which causes high tides in coastal areas.

The Planetary Parade continues, encompassing 107° in the brightening sky. Saturn still rises first, at 12:14 AM, shining with zero magnitude, a moderate 17 arc-seconds in size, and 32° high at 4:44 AM; the Ringed Planet continues its retrograde (backward) motion. Pisces houses Neptune, Mars and Jupiter. Neptune, 30° to Saturn’s left, rises at 1:24 AM, shines with 8th magnitude, a tiny 2 arc-seconds and stands 33° high.

Jupiter, 10° East of Neptune, glimmers with minus 2nd magnitude, rises at 1:47 AM, a large 38 arc-seconds, and 10° altitude. The Great Red Spot (a giant storm) can be seen at 12:58 AM Wednesday; Jovian moon Io’s shadow begins to cross the planet’s face at 12:46 AM; Io itself begins its trek a 2:08 AM, the shadow leaves the face at 3 AM, followed by Io at 4:22 AM.

Mars rises at 2:09 AM, glows with zero magnitude, a medium 6 arc-seconds and 28° high; the Red Planet is speeding up its separation form Jupiter.

Aries hosts Uranus and Venus. Uranus, 32° East of Mars, rises at 3:23 AM, shines with 5th magnitude, 3 arc-seconds and 14° high; Uranus is also speeding backward. Venus, 2° from Uranus, rises at 3:35 AM, blazes with minus 4th magnitude, 12 arc-seconds in size, 81% illuminated and 15° high. Finally, Mercury is becoming more conspicuous, rising in Taurus, at 4:19 AM, zero magnitude, 8 arc-seconds, 30% lit, 11° below Venus, but only 4° above the horizon. It should be naked-eye visible for the observer.

The Albany Area Amateur Astronomers are holding a virtual monthly meeting on Thursday, June 16th at 8:00 PM. The guest speaker is Professor Matthew Szydagis of SUNY Albany. His topic discusses observations of UAPs. Since shortly after World War II, there have been numerous sightings of Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs). The topic has been the source of speculation for decades. Now, the US military are taking them seriously, released footage of some encounters and researching Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAPs). NASA has recently also joined in the investigation. The professor is a member of a group that examines these phenomena. The talk discusses how they examine these events and pose questions on unexplained incidents.

Skywatch Line for Friday, June 10, through Sunday, June 12, 2022

This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Friday, June 10, through Sunday, June 12, written by Sam Salem.

On Friday, Sun rises at 5:17am and sets at 8:33pm; Moon sets at 2:42am and rises at 4:08pm. On Friday, Spica, the brightest star in the constellation of Virgo, sparkles to the Moon’s right after dusk. Look roughly twice as far lower right of Spica to locate the four brightest stars of sail-shaped constellation of Corvus the crow.

Earliest sunrises happen around this time of the year. That’s even though the northern summer solstice, year’s longest day for Northern Hemisphere, happens on June 21st. The primary reason for the earliest sunrise preceding the summer solstice, and the earliest sunset preceding the winter solstice, is the inclination of the Earth’s rotational axis. The Earth’s elliptical orbit does affect the severity of the phenomenon.

Mercury will likely become visible near the sunrise point this weekend. Start watching for Mercury in the eastern sky before sunrise. Greatest elongation, when Mercury will be farthest from the sunrise on our sky’s dome, is mid-June. Afterwards the planet continues to get brighter. Later in June, although it’ll be edging back toward the sunrise, Mercury will be easier to see in the twilight. Look in the sunrise direction, as the sky is lightening. As soon as you can spot Mercury, notice that it lies at the eastern end of a line of planets visible to the unaided eye. The other morning planets in June are Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn. The line they trace on the sky’s dome defines the ecliptic, or plane of our solar system. Mercury will be lowest in the sky. Venus continues its early morning dominance as it slides lower towards the horizon. Mars brightens, making it easier to spot and identify. Jupiter gleams high in the sky as dawn approaches. Saturn is about four fists to the right of Jupiter before dawn. The two much-fainter planets, Uranus and Neptune, are also loosely clustered in the morning sky. You will need a small telescope to be able to find them.

After dark, Vega shines as the brightest star very high in the east. Barely lower left of it is 4th-magnitude Epsilon Lyrae, the Double-Double. Epsilon forms one corner of a roughly equilateral triangle with Vega and Zeta Lyrae. The triangle is less than 2 degrees on a side, hardly the width of a thumb at arm’s length. Binoculars easily resolve Epsilon. A telescope should resolve each of Epsilon’s wide components into a tight pair. Zeta Lyrae is also a double star, plainly resolved in a telescope. Delta Lyrae, below Zeta, is a much wider and easier binocular pair.

Sir David Gill was born on June 12,1843. The Scottish astronomer is known for his measurements of solar and stellar parallax, showing the distances of the Sun and other stars from Earth, and for his early use of photography in mapping the heavens. To determine parallaxes, he perfected the use of the heliometer, a telescope that uses a split image to measure the angular separation of celestial bodies. In 1877, Gill and his wife measured the solar parallax by observing Mars from Ascension Island. He was appointed Her Majesty’s Astronomer at the Cape of Good Hope from 1879 to 1906.

Skywatch Line for Wednesday and Thursday, June 8 and 9, 2022

This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Wednesday and Thursday, June 8 and 9, written by Alan French.

The Sun rises at 5:17 A.M. and sets at 8:32 P.M. on Wednesday. On Thursday it rises at 5:17 and sets at 8:33, giving us 7 minutes more daylight than a week ago. As we approach the summer solstice, on June 21, the increase in daylight each day slows, and after the summer solstice the days will grow shorter, slowly at first.

The Moon reached first quarter on Tuesday, July 7, so a waxing gibbous Moon, having risen in early afternoon, is now visible in the evening sky, well up as darkness falls. At 9:30 P.M. Wednesday night the Moon, 65% illuminated, will be 44 degrees above the horizon and toward the southwest. On Thursday evening at 9:30 it will be in the south, 41 degrees high and three-quarters in sunlight. The Moon sill reach full Tuesday morning, June 14.

Four naked eye planets continue to grace the morning sky just before sunrise, stretching across almost 80 degrees. At 4:15 A.M. Venus is easy to spot, shining at magnitude -4.0 six degrees above the horizon 13 degrees north of due east. Bright Jupiter, at magnitude -2.3, lies 23 degrees above the east southeastern horizon. Fainter, reddish Mars is just under six degrees to the lower left of Jupiter. Yellowish Saturn is in the south southeast and highest, 30 degrees above the horizon.

A fifth naked eye planet, Mercury is now moving into the morning sky, but it is now too faint to be seen by eye. It rises at 4:30 A.M. As it catches up to Earth it will grown brighter and rise earlier, but this is not a good morning appearance by the innermost planet. As we approach the end of the month binoculars should pick it out against the twilight glow.

Uranus and Neptune are also in the morning sky, but not visible by eye. Uranus is about 4 ½ degrees left of Venus and Neptune 9 ½ degrees to the upper right of Saturn. Technically Uranus can be seen by eye, but dark skies, free of light pollution are required. Young eyes also help.

Our Earth, traveling around the Sun on its faster, inner orbit, is slowly overtaking Mars. As the weeks pass Mars will grow in size. Mars now appears 6.6 arcseconds in diameter, and its tiny disk gives up little detail to any telescope. By June 4, when 7.81 light minutes from Earth, Mars will appear 10 arcseconds across. This is usually considered the minimum size to show detail through a telescope and allow useful observations. This rule of thumb, however, came from a time when visual observers could see more detail by eye than film could record. Today, skilled astrophotographers with digital cameras and powerful software tools can record more detail than can be seen visually through a telescope.

Mars will reach opposition, a position opposite the Sun, on December 7. It will be 4.57 light minutes from Earth and appear 17 arcseconds in diameter. (Because Mars is moving farther away from the Sun as we catch up, we will be closest to Mars and it will appear 17.2 arcseconds in diameter on December 1.) [AF1] Most importantly, around opposition, Mars will be almost 73 degrees high in the sky, so telescopic views from our northern seats should be quite good. Views are best when we look though less of Earth’s atmosphere. When Mars made its historically close approach on August 28, 2003, the closest in almost 60,000 years, it appeared 25.1 arcseconds in diameter. However, it was only just over 31 degrees high from here, telescopes were looking through a thick layer of atmosphere, and views were poor.

Coincidentally, the upcoming opposition is the night of the full Moon, and from this area the Moon’s eastward motion among the stars will cause to occult, or pass in front of, Mars! Let’s hope for clear skies. Not too far south of us there will be a grazing occultation, with Mars only being partially covered by the Moon. From the New York City area and southern New York the Moon will miss Mars entirely.

Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday June 6th, and 7th, 2022

This is the Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday June 6th, and 7th, written by Joe Slomka.

The Sun sets at 8:31 PM; night falls at 10:45. Dawn begins at 3:04 AM and ends with the Sun rising at 5:18.

Leo houses the Moon on both nights. Monday’s Moon set at 1:14 AM and rises at 11:34 AM. Tuesday’s First Quarter Moon sets at 1:38 AM and rises at 12:40 PM. The Moon sets at 1:59 AM on Wednesday.

There are no planets visible during evening. However, Comet Panstarrs remains visible for binocular and telescope users. The 8th magnitude comet rises, in eastern Ophiuchus, at about 8 PM and is highest at 2:39 AM; at 10 PM it stands about 22° high. It is also situated about 1 1/2° from NGC 6572 an 8th magnitude telescopic Planetary Nebula about 8 arc-seconds in size that appears as a blue oval.

The planetary parade reaches a climax this week. It is possible to see every solar system planet, dwarf planet and moon before sunrise, and in the order in which they are located. The full parade stretches 91° from Mercury to Saturn; the brightest planets span 69°.

Saturn is the first to rise, in Capricornus, at 1:09 AM, glows with zero magnitude, appears 17 arc-seconds in size and is 31° high in the South; Saturn was stationary on the 5th and now begins a 20-week retrograde(backwards) loop; its best appearance of the year. Pisces contains Neptune, Jupiter, Mars and Venus. Neptune is next, rising at 2:19 AM, 8th magnitude, 2 arc-seconds in size and 29° altitude in the South-east. Jupiter, 9° from Neptune, rises at 2:37 AM, glimmers with minus 2nd magnitude, a large 37 arc-seconds, and 27° high. Telescopic observers can see the Great Red Spot (a giant storm) at 12:10 AM on Wednesday; they can also witness the Jovian moon Io’s shadow disappear at 1:07 AM and Io itself end its transit at 2:26 AM. Mars rises next at 2:41 AM, glows with zero magnitude, 6 arc-seconds in size and 24° high in the East; Mars begins to speed up to the East and presents its South Pole to telescopic observers. Venus is 31° West of Mars, rising at 3:47 AM, blazing with minus 4th magnitude, 13 arc-seconds, 80% lit and 11° high. Uranus rises at 4:16 AM, 6th magnitude, a tiny 3 arc-seconds and only 9° high. Mercury is last, in Taurus, rising at 5:01 AM, 3rd magnitude, 11 arc-seconds, but only 1° high; Mercury begins a climb eastward, improving its view. Uranus and Mercury are close to the Sun and pose challenges. In addition to planets, Dwarf Planet 4Vesta adds to the parade. It rises in Aquarius, at 1:08 AM, glimmers with 8th magnitude, 95% lit and 29° high. It lies about 8° to Saturn’s lower left.

Skywatch Line for Friday, June 3, through Sunday, June 5, 2022

This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Friday, June 3, through Sunday, June 5, written by Sam Salem.

On Friday, Sun rises at 5:18am and sets at 8:30pm; Moon sets at 12:47am and rises at 10:29am. The waxing crescent Moon glows near Castor and Pollux, the 2 brightest stars in Gemini the Twins, on Friday evening. After dark on Saturday, the crescent Moon forms a long isosceles triangle with Regulus and the little fainter star Gamma Leonis to the Moon’s upper left. The Moon is at the long end of the triangle. On Sunday evening, the triangle will be much shorter and flatter, but still isosceles.

Spot the Beehive star cluster in binoculars along with the waxing crescent Moon on Friday. The easterly orbital motion of the waxing crescent Moon will carry it past the huge open star cluster in Cancer, the Beehive, also known as Praesepe and Messier 44, in the western sky. After dusk, the Moon will be shining a slim palm’s width to the right of the cluster. The Moon and the cluster will be close enough to share the field of binoculars. You’ll be able to see more stars if you hide the Moon just outside of field of view.

On Sunday, the eastward prograde motion of planet Saturn through the background stars of eastern Capricornus will slow to a stop. After Sunday it will commence a westward retrograde loop that will last until late October. On early June mornings Saturn will be visible with unaided eyes in the lower part of the southeastern sky from the time it clears the horizon around 1am until the dawn twilight hides it. Retrograde loops occur when Earth, on a faster orbit closer to the Sun, passes more distant planets “on the inside track,” making them appear to move backwards across the stars.

Venus, at magnitude –4.0, rises soon after the beginning of dawn. It’s roughly three fists at arm’s length lower left of Jupiter. Venus will continue to rise around the beginning of dawn from now all the way through August.

Mars and Jupiter, at magnitudes +0.7 and –2.2 respectively, shine close together before and during dawn in the east-southeast. Mars slowly pulls away from brilliant Jupiter. It is about 3½ degrees lower left of Jupiter on Friday morning. Mars brightens during June, matching the brighter stars. Due to the zigzag layout of constellation boundaries, Mars leaves the zodiacal constellation of Pisces the Fish and moves eastward into Cetus the Whale on Friday. It stays in Cetus for only 5 days before it slides further eastward and back into Pisces again.

Saturn, at magnitude +0.7, glows in eastern Capricornus about four fists right or upper right of Jupiter before dawn. The little star 2 degrees to Saturn’s lower right is Delta Capricorni, magnitude 2.8.

Neptune, at magnitude 7.9, sits about 9 degrees right of Jupiter before dawn begins.

Skywatch Line for Wednesday and Thursday, June 1 and 2, 2022

This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Wednesday and Thursday, June 1 and 2, written by Alan French.

The Sun rises at 5:20 A.M. and sets at 8:27 P.M. on Wednesday. On Thursday it rises at 5:19 and sets at 8:28, giving us just under 10 minutes more daylight than a week ago.

There were recent news stories about a possible meteor “outburst” or “storm” on the night of May 30 into the morning of May 31, predicted to be most likely around 1 A.M. EDT on May 31. These Tau Herculid meteors happen when our Earth passes through debris left by Comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 as it orbits the Sun. Some astronomers predicted we’d pass through an unusually rich area of debris. Clouds spoiled chances for most from this area, but reports from elsewhere report a modest display, but no real outburst.

The Moon was new on Monday and is now moving toward first quarter, so a crescent Moon is visible as darkness falls. On Wednesday look for the 6% illuminated, slender crescent at 9:45 P.M., when it will be just under 10 degrees high toward the west northwest. Although we only see a slender portion of the Moon’s sunlit face, the rest of the Moon is also faintly visible. It is illuminated by the nearly full Earth, now visible from the Earth facing half of the Moon. As the Moon moves toward full, our Earth, as seen from there, moves toward new. On Wednesday the Moon sets at 10:53 P.M.

By Thursday night the Moon’s visible face will be 11% in sunlight and the Earthshine less obvious. At 9:45 P.M. it will be 17 degrees above the horizon in the west northwest. Thursday’s Moon will set at 11:39 P.M.

The Moon will reach first quarter on Tuesday, July 7. Don’t forget the days around first quarter are great for exploring the Moon with even a modest telescope.

The ISS (International Space Station) will be visible Wednesday evening crossing the southwestern sky. The ISS will first appear low in the west at 9:15 P.M. EDT headed upward and southward. It will be highest at 9:17:36 when 37 degrees above the southwestern horizon and will disappear low in the southeast just after 9:20. There will be a much lower pass across the southwestern sky June 3. The next high pass will be June 28, when it will be in the morning sky.

Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday May 30th, and 31st, 2022

This is the Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Monday (Memorial Day) and Tuesday May 30th, and 31st, written by Joe Slomka.

The Sun sets at 6:01 PM; night falls at 7:15. Dawn begins at 4:40 AM and ends with the Sun rising at 5:54.

The Moon is officially “NEW” at 11:30 AM, Monday; this means that the Moon is not visible all night. Tuesday, the Moon rises, in Taurus, at 6:34 AM, but is too close to the Sun to be observed.

There are no planets visible for the evening. An unscheduled meteor shower could happen on Tuesday. The shower is officially named “tau Herculid meteor shower.” In 1995, Comet Schwassman-Wachman (73P) fractured into several pieces and left a wake of debris. Meteor showers happen when Earth plows into the wake of comet leftovers. The moonless night is ideal for meteor hunting. Shower maximum is expected to be around 1 AM, Tuesday, near the bright star Arcturus. The comet has a history of minor showers. If Earth encounters fresh comet material, then the possibility for a shower is enhanced. Meteor forecasters estimate that there could be as many as 1,000 per hour or none at all.

The Dawn planet parade continues. At Civil Twilight (5:23 AM), Saturn continues to be first riser at 11:17 PM on Monday, shining with zero magnitude, 17 arc-seconds in size 32° high. Pisces houses Neptune, Jupiter, Mars and Venus. Neptune is next, 8th magnitude, a tiny 2 arc-seconds, rises at 1:13 AM and 32° high. Jupiter, 8° to Neptune’s left, rises at 1:43 AM, glares with minus 2nd magnitude, a large 37 arc-seconds and is 31° high; the Great Red Spot (a giant storm) comes into telescopic view at 3:23 AM on Tuesday. Mars is only 1° away from Jupiter, rises at 1:45 AM, shines with zero magnitude, 6 arc-seconds, 87% lit and 30° high. Venus, 28° east from Mars, rises at 3:30 AM, blazes with minus 4th magnitude, a moderate 13 arc-seconds and 19° high. Uranus, 13° from Venus, rises in Aries, 6th magnitude, 3 arc-seconds 77% lit, and 14° high. Finally, Mercury just emerged from the Sun’s glare, rises in Taurus at 5:09 AM, 3rd magnitude, 12 arc-seconds and only 6° high. Note that all the planets are visible at the same time.

One of the astronomical clichés is that Jupiter’s Great Red Spot has been continuously observed for three centuries. While true, the Spot has been known to change. For example, it is not exactly red now, but closer to a pale color; new astronomers have difficulty finding it. When measured in the 1800’s, the storm was 25,000 miles wide. In 1979, the Voyager spacecraft imaged it at 15,534 miles. In 1995, British astronomer John Rogers, in collaboration with professional and amateur astronomers, measured it at about 12,500 miles. He also reported that wind speeds are increasing. The Great Red spot now has 300 miles-per-hour winds, up from 250. Like an ice skater, it spins faster as it gets smaller. Rogers speculates that, by 2050, it may be known as the Great Red Circle. Hubble Telescope images now reveal that it is about 11,000 miles wide. The cause of this shrinkage is unknown. Should the Great Red Spot disappear, astronomers are uncertain what would happen. It could reappear, or never return. Remember, this is a weather system, which, like all storms, eventually end.

Skywatch Line for Friday, May 27, through Sunday, May 29, 2022

This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Friday, May 27, through Sunday, May 29, written by Sam Salem.

On Friday, Sun rises at 5:22am and sets at 8:23pm; Moon rises at 3:57am and sets at 5:46pm.

Look to the eastern sky before sunrise on Friday when the very slim crescent of the old Moon will shine just to the lower left of the bright planet Venus. Mars and Jupiter will accompany them, off to their upper right.

In the eastern predawn sky on Sunday morning, the faster motion of Mars will carry it past much brighter Jupiter in a very tight conjunction. Both planets will share the view in a telescope from Friday to Tuesday, with Mars approaching from the right. At closest approach on Sunday morning, Mars will sit 0.6 degrees below Jupiter. Saturn is up there too, further to the right of Mars. Saturn, magnitude +0.8, glows in eastern Capricornus a good 35 upper right of Jupiter before dawn. After Monday, Mars will appear farther and farther to the left of Jupiter, as Jupiter sweeps up and away from Mars.

Capella, in the constellation of Auriga, sets low in the northwest soon after dark these evenings. That leaves Vega, in the constellation of Lyra, and Arcturus, in the constellation of Boötes, as the brightest stars in the evening sky. Vega shines in the east-northeast. Arcturus is now very high toward the south. A third of the way from Arcturus down to Vega look for semicircular Corona Borealis, with 2nd-magnitude Alphecca as its one moderately bright star. Two thirds of the way from Arcturus to Vega is the dim Keystone of Hercules, now lying almost level. Use binoculars or a telescope to examine the Keystone’s top edge. A third of the way from its left end to the right is 6th-magnitude M13, one of Hercules’s two great globular star clusters. In binoculars it’s a tiny glowing cotton ball. Located 22,000 light-years away high above the plane of the Milky Way, it consists of several hundred thousand stars in a swarm only about 140 light-years wide.

Asteroid 7335 (1989 JA) is scheduled to come as close as 2.5 million miles to the Earth at 10:26am on Friday, according to data from NASA’s Center for Near Earth Studies (CNEOS). At this point, the asteroid will be zooming past the Earth at a staggering speed of around 47,200 miles per hour. While this approach is deemed close by astronomical standards, it is not close by practical measures and there is no threat to the Earth from this asteroid. The asteroid was discovered in May 1989 by astronomer Eleanor “Glo” Helin at the Palomar Observatory in California. Helin is an American Astronomer who was a prolific discoverer of minor planets and several comets. She discovered or co-discovered 903 asteroids and several comets.

Skywatch Line for Wednesday and Thursday, May 25 and 26, 2022

This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Wednesday and Thursday, May 25 and 26, written by Alan French.

The Sun rises at 5:24 A.M. and sets at 8:21 P.M. on Wednesday. On Thursday it rises at 5:23 and sets at 8:22, giving us 12 ¼ minutes more daylight than a week ago.

The Moon reached last quarter this past Sunday afternoon and is now headed toward new. A waning crescent Moon is now visible low in the east before sunrise. At 4:15 A.M. on Wednesday morning the 24% illuminated Moon will just under 10 degrees above the eastern horizon a little north of due east. Bright Jupiter will be to the Moon’s upper right, just 5 degrees away. Also look for reddish Mars, to the upper right of and slightly higher than Jupiter and 2 ½ degrees away. Brilliant Venus will be just over 20 degrees to the south of the Moon and 4 degrees above the horizon.

By Thursday at 4:15 A.M. the Moon’s eastward motion among the stars will have brought it closer to Venus. The crescent Moon will be 16 percent in sunlight and 6 degrees above the eastern horizon. Venus will be almost 9 degrees away. On its inner, faster orbit Venus passed roughly between the Earth and Sun back on January 8, passing over 5 degrees north of the Sun.

The Moon will reach new on Monday, May 30.

Venus is now moving farther away from Earth and toward superior conjunction, when it will be on the opposite side of the Sun from our Earth. It will reach superior conjunction on October 23.

We have a bright and interesting pass of the International Space Station (ISS) late Thursday evening. As it approaches its highest point the ISS will reach magnitude -3.9, outshining the brightest stars in the night sky, and it will move into the Earth’s shadow and fade from view when almost overhead. Some times will be given in hours, minutes, and seconds. The path of the ISS is described as seen from Schenectady, but will not differ much from the surrounding region.

On Thursday night look for the ISS coming straight up from the north northwestern horizon at 10:49 P.M. At 10:50:30 it will pass just north of Castor and Pollux, the two brightest stars in Gemini, the Twins. Castor and Pollux will be 15 degrees above the horizon at the time. After passing the stars, the ISS will be headed toward the Big Dipper, a familiar pattern of stars formed by the brightest stars in Ursa Major, the Great Bear. By 10:52:30 it will be passing along the bottom of the dipper, and at 10:53 it will pass close to the star at the end of the dipper’s handle. It will then move into the Earth’s shadow and fade from view. As it enters the Earth’s shadow the ISS will be 420km (261 miles) away. How far can you follow it before it completely fades from view?

Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday May 23rd, and 24th, 2022

This is the Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday May 23rd, and 24th, written by Joe Slomka.

The Sun sets at 8:19 PM; night falls at 10:25. Dawn begins at 3:19 AM and ends with the Sun rising at 5:25.

Aquarius houses the Moon on both nights. Monday’s Moon, just past Last Quarter, rose at 2:30 AM, appears 31 arc-minutes in size, 44% illuminated and sets at 1:30 PM. Tuesday’s Moon appears about the same size, but only 33% lit and sets at 2:29 PM. This leaves the night sky moonless until Dawn.

There is one visitor in our evening sky. Comet Panstarrs (C/2021 O3) in Camelopardalis, can be observed in telescopes. This is an Oort Cloud visitor, 6 light-minutes distant, glows with 9.5 magnitude and 64% lit. It is best observed at 3:37 AM, when highest. It can be located about 10° to the lower left of Polaris (the North Star).

The Planetary Parade continues, missing Mercury, now hidden by the Sun. Saturn is still the first to rise, in southern Capricornus, at 1:36 AM, zero magnitude, a moderate 17 arc-seconds, 28° high at Civil Dawn (4:51 AM). Pisces hosts Neptune, Mars, Jupiter and Venus. Neptune rises next at 2:46 AM, glowing with 8th magnitude, a tiny 2 arc-seconds and 23° high. Mars is third, rising at 2:57 AM, zero magnitude and 6 arc-seconds in size; the Red Planet is found 3° to Neptune’s left on Tuesday, 2° on Wednesday and 7° from the Moon. At Tuesday and Wednesday’s Dawn, the Moon forms a pretty triangle with Mars and Jupiter. Jupiter rises at 3:02 AM, glimmering with minus 2nd magnitude, a large 37 arc-seconds and 21° high. Venus rises at 3:55 AM, blazing with minus 4th magnitude, 14 arc-seconds 75% lit and 10° high. On Tuesday and Wednesday Dawn, Mars, Jupiter and Neptune create a great binocular formation at Civil Dawn. Uranus, recently emerged from behind the Sun, makes its reappearance, rising at 4:42 AM, 6th magnitude, 3 arc-seconds and 21° high.

With Venus rising, let us examine her in detail. Venus is the second planet from the Sun. It is almost an Earth twin, about the same size and slightly less mass. Early telescopic observers noted its complete cloud cover. They speculated that Venus was a lush, tropical planet. As science obtained better instruments, rude shocks came. Venus did not rotate in 24 hours like Earth; its day lasts 243 earth-days. Russian and US probes landed on Venus; pictures showed a rock filled wasteland. Those same probes recorded a toxic atmosphere with true acid rain. Since Venus is closer to the Sun, it gets twice the solar radiation. Temperatures approach the melting point of lead and atmospheric pressure is 90 times that of Earth. Its slow rotation and lack of axis tilt means no seasons or weather. Most planetary scientists now think that Venus is a case of uncontrolled global warming. Any oceans boiled off, leaving an atmosphere of 96 percent carbon dioxide. Without oceans, there was no water to capture the carbon dioxide into limestone rocks, as on Earth.