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SKY HAPPENINGS

Moab UT (at City Hall)
38O34’ N Latitude 109O33’ W Longitude
4048 ft - 1234 m

The Sky for May 2016
By Faylene Roth

 

Sunrise-Sunset
for May

(The time of sunrise and sunset assumes a flat horizon. Actual time may vary depending upon the landscape.)

DATE

SUNRISE

SUNSET

1

6:20am

8:11pm

2

6:19am

8:12pm

3

6:18am

8:13pm

4

6:17am

8:14pm

5

6:16am

8:14pm

6

6:15am

8:15pm

7

6:14am

8:16pm

8

6:13am

8:17pm

9

6:12am

8:18pm

10

6:11am

8:19pm

11

6:10am

8:20pm

12

6:09am

8:21pm

13

6:08am

8:22pm

14

6:07am

8:23pm

15

6:06am

8:24pm

16

6:05am

8:25pm

17

6:04am

8:25pm

18

6:04am

8:26pm

19

6:03am

8:27pm

20

6:02am

8:28pm

21

6:01am

8:29pm

22

6:01am

8:30pm

23

6:00am

8:30pm

24

5:59am

8:31pm

25

5:59am

8:32pm

26

5:58am

8:33pm

27

5:58am

8:34pm

28

5:57am

8:34pm

29

5:57am

8:35pm

30

5:56am

8:36pm

31

5:56am

8:36pm

Arcturus (Boötes), Regulus (Leo), and Spica (Virgo) are the three bright stars overhead. Locate red-orange Arcturus by following the arc of the handle of the Big Dipper (Ursa Major), blue star Regulus (beyond Jupiter) at the base of the sickle that forms Leo’s head, and blue star Spica about 30 ̊ below Arcturus.

The band of stardust and gas we call the Milky Way is absent from the May sky until after midnight when it swings down from the north into the eastern sky. We look edge-on through the plane of our galaxy, but right now the plane of the Milky Way is lined up with the plane of the Earth’s horizon. If you think of the galactic plane as the galactic equator, then there is a galactic north pole and south pole. Find the galactic north pole by looking for Coma Berenices directly overhead. Look for three faint stars that form a corner—between Arcturus and Leo—and you will be looking beyond our galaxy, although the stars you see are within the Milky Way. Thousands of galaxies—not visible with the naked eye—loom beyond.

Twilight extends the period of daylight in three stages at each end of the day. Morning twilight begins with astronomical twilight—about 1-1/2 hours (nearly 2 during summer months) before sunrise—as the eastern horizon brightens. Nautical twilight continues—as the overhead sky turns blue and color returns to the surrounding landscape—for another 30-40 minutes. The final stage—civil twilight—provides adequate light for most outdoor activities for the half hour before the sun crests the horizon. The opposite progression occurs after sunset.

MOON HAPPENINGS
May 6 – Dark skies throughout the night before and after the new moon (1:29pm).
May 13– Dark evening skies. A waning last quarter moon rises after midnight.
May 21– Full moon (3:14pm) rises at 8:23pm.
May 29– Moonlit evening skies continue until the waxing last quarter moon sets after midnight.
(The moon rises later each day—as little as 30 minutes to as much as one hour. Time of moonrise and moonset may also be delayed in mountainous terrain.)

VISIBLE PLANETS
Evening (Before Midnight)
Mars – red orb best seen after evening astronomical twilight above the head of Scorpius. (Brightens to -2.0 magnitude as it approaches opposition on May 22 and perigee on May 30)
Saturn - golden ring follows Mars across the night sky about 15 ̊ east but in neighboring Ophiucus. (+1.0 magnitude)
Jupiter - brilliant white disk high in the western sky by evening twilight about 15 ̊ east of Regulus below Leo’s tail; sets long before morning twilight. (-2.1 magnitude)
Morning (After Midnight)
Mars – still in the western sky during early morning twilight throughout the first half of May.
Saturn – remains in the early morning skies throughout most of the month.

Apparent magnitude values range from -4 to +6 for most planets and visible stars. The lower the value the brighter the object. A decrease of 1.0 magnitude is 2.5 times brighter.

Primary Sources: USGS; U.S. Naval Observatory; Your Sky at http://www.fourmilab.ch/yoursky/
To find out when the space shuttle and International Space Station are visible from your location, go to: http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/realdata/sightings/index.html and click on Sighting Opportunities.

MAJOR METEOR EVENTS
Shower
Peak
(May)
Range
(May)
Constellation Radiant
Rate
(/hr)
Details
Conditions
Eta Aquarids

6/7
1-19
Aquarius
10
Swift with persistent trains just before dawn
New Moon
Best time to view any meteor event is between midnight and morning twilight when the radiant is overhead. Trace the path of any meteor backwards through the sky to reach its radiant--the region of the sky from which meteors appear to originate.

The star chart approximates the sky from astronomical twilight to midnight. As the night and month progresses, the constellations shift toward the northwest. The celestial equator is measured in hours (h). The ecliptic is measured in degrees

Note: Hold your hand at arm’s length to measure apparent distances in the sky. The width of the little finger approximates 1.5̊. Middle, ring, and little finger touching represent about 5̊. The width of a fist is about 10̊. The fist with the thumb extended at a right angle equals 15̊. The hand stretched from thumb to little finger approximates 20̊-25̊. The diameter of both the full moon and the sun spans only 0.5̊. Adjust for the size of your hand.

 
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