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Star Gazing - May 21, 2018
Monday, May 21
• First-quarter Moon (exact at 11:49 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time). The Moon shines very near Regulus during
evening for the Americas.
• This evening the asteroid 201 Penelope should occult a 9.9-magnitude star in Virgo for telescope users along
a narrow path from the Oregon coast through Arizona and into Mexico. Map, details, finder charts.
Tuesday, May 22
• Now and for months to come, Jupiter stays within less than 2° or 3° of 3rd-magnitude Alpha Librae
(Zubenelgenubi): a fine, wide double star for binoculars. Its two components, magnitudes 2.8 and 5.1, are a
generous 231 arcseconds apart. Nevertheless they form a real, gravitationally bound pair; they're both
measured to be 77 light-years away.
• Shining in the east-northeast after dark is Vega, the brightest and currently highest star of the Summer
Triangle. But with summer still a month away (astronomically speaking), the Triangle's final star doesn't rise
above the eastern horizon until about 10 or 11 p.m. That's Altair, the Triangle's lower right corner. The third
star is Deneb, sparkling less far to Vega's lower left.
Vega in the eastern sky
Vega far outshines the rest of Lyra's more delicate, 3rd and 4th-magnitude stars. The whole group climbs the
eastern sky these evenings and shines near the zenith just before dawn.
Wednesday, May 23
• Vega is the brightest star in the east-northeast after dark. The other main stars of its constellation, Lyra,
currently dangle down from it, as shown above.
• Look 14° (about a fist and a half at arm's length) to Vega's upper left for Eltanin, the nose of Draco the
Dragon. Closer above and upper left of Eltanin are the three fainter stars of Draco's stick-figure head, also
called the Lozenge. Draco always points his nose to Vega, as if sniffing for it.
Thursday, May 24
• Constellations seem to twist around fast when they pass your zenith — if you're comparing them to the
direction "down," i.e. directly away from the zenith. Right now, as the stars come out, the Big Dipper still
floats almost horizontal practically overhead to the north (seen from 40° N latitude). But in just two or three
weeks, as seen in the same stage of twilight, the Dipper will be hanging straight down by its handle!
Moon, Spica, Jupiter, May 25-27, 2018
Using the Moon as your starting point, how early can you pick out Jupiter, then Spica, then 3rd-magnitude
Alpha Librae? This frame is about 25° wide. (So as you can see, the Moon is shown about 3 times its actual
Friday, May 25
• The waxing gibbous Moon crosses the sky tonight in the company of Spica below it, as shown at right.
Saturday, May 26
• Tonight the Moon forms a flat triangle with Spica and brighter Jupiter, which are more or less on opposite
sides of it, as shown here. This is their arrangement in bright twilight. The whole scene rotates
counterclockwise as it moves westward through the night.
Starry, Starry Night . . .
"I know nothing of any certainty, but the sight of the stars
makes me dream." -Vincent Van Gogh