Title: May Skywatch Highlights
Location: Hawaiian Islands
Date / Time: May 2012
Comments: Our spring skies provide fascinating opportunities for stargazing. As the sky starts to darken, VENUS appears as a brilliant "evening star." (Hoku Kauahiahi). At magnitude minus -4.5, it is spectacular in the western sky! Venus spends the month transiting across Taurus the Bull, & will be visible until around 9PM during most of May. Look for a slim crescent Moon next to Venus on May 22nd, a lovely pairing. Venus is now heading back toward the Sun, lining up for a rare astronomical event: On June 5th, Venus will pass between the Earth & Sun, and will appear to transit across the face of the Sun. (More details on this special event coming soon). MARS is high in the South at sunset, dominating the background stars of its host constellation, Leo, the Lion. At the beginning of May, the Red Planet lies 6 degrees east of Regulus, Leo's brightest star. At magnitude 0.0, Mars shines 3.6 times brighter & appears ruddy red next to blue-white Regulus. Mars moves southeast relative to the background stars during May, & ends the month nearly 15 degrees from Regulus. By then it will have dimmed noticeably to mag 0.5 and will set at around 1:30AM. SATURN reached opposition & peak visibility in April, and it remains a stunning sight through any telescope in May. Saturn appears in the constellation Virgo, the Maiden, just 5 degrees NE of Spica, Virgo's brightest star. At magnitude 0.7, Saturn appears slightly but noticeably brighter than Spica. Notice Saturn's golden hue, compared to blue-white Spica. Saturn's rings open wider than they've been since 2007, tilting at 13 degrees to our line of sight from Earth, & affording impressive views through even a small telescope. You might be able see the Cassini Division, a dark gap that separates the outer A ring from the broader & brighter B ring. Small telescopes also reveal some of Saturn's moons, including 8th magnitude Titan, the biggest & brightest. . MERCURY reached max. western elongation April 18th, and is now headed back toward the Sun. During the first week in May, look for Mercury in the eastern sky around 4:30AM, very low on the horizon. The Southern Cross, (Crux), rises high enough for viewing by 9:30PM at the start of May, and by 8PM at months end. To view Crux, you'll need an unobstructed view to the southern horizon. About an hour after Crux rises, look for 2 bright stars, Alpha & Beta Centauri, which "point" to the Cross to their right/west. At this time of evening, you should be able to see all the way from Polaris, (the North Star), to the bottom star in the Southern Cross, Acrux. For a May Hawaiian sky map visit Bishop Museum Planetarium www.bishopmuseum.org/planetarium (bishopmuseum.org)

Maintained by Roz Reiner - Kauai, Hawaii


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