Friday, April 29, 2011

Four planets (and the Moon) in action in the May morning sky - and a nice supernova!

While the play of the planets - Mercury, Venus, Mars & Jupiter - is best seen from moderate Northern and esp. Southern latitudes, the supernova in the Big Dipper is ideally placed for Northerners. It was discovered very early, at 14th magnitude, and could rise to 12th - which would be pretty rare - during the coming week. Of all planets still only Saturn (a nice April 19 pic and several of the ongoing storm) is easily seen from everywhere, while the other four naked eye planets are so close to and west of the Sun that you need a either a steep ecliptic (like in this Australian view from April 26) or binoculars to see them and esp. the various conjunctions of between them, listed below. Some key dates:
  • April 30 & May 1: The waning crescent Moon joins the morning planet line-up - simulated April 30 sky views for Australia and later California and the view on May 1 for Germany. On May 1 Mars is 21' north of Jupiter.

  • Around May 3: Possible 12 mag. peak of Supernova 2011by in NGC 3972 in UMa; here are the Chinese discovery picture and a color view.

  • May 6: Peak of the Eta Aquarids, like the planet show something great only for Southern observers.

  • May 8: Mercury 1.5° south of Venus.

  • May 11: Mercury 2° south of Jupiter and Venus 34' south of Jupiter (thus a planet trio).

  • May 18: Mercury 1.3° south of Venus.

  • May 21: Mercury 2° south of Mars.

  • May 23: Venus 1° south of Mars (another planet trio, with Mercury).

  • May 31: The Moon is once more close to the morning planets.
In other news comet Hale-Bopp has been seen at 30.7 AU from the Sun, a new distance record, there is a 2nd paper on the Scheila outburst (discussed here, here, here and here together with the first), and the outburst of comet 240P is ongoing, in different phases. • Asteroid 2011 HS showed a wild lightcurve (pics one, two and three) and is probably tumbling while features on Lutetia has been named. • A meteorite shower helped finance a school, while meteorite collectors claim they are good guys. • A report on a reference observation for (not) understanding a 1963 TLE, the Sun's AR 1195 on April 23, yet another huge sky mosaic (discussed here; two from 2009 were compared here), a sunset movie with several green segments - and the ISS in recent days, in high resolution, also animated and as trails.

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