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Astro for May

“Uncle Bob”

May Highlights

You may have noticed Orion wending its way to the west and appearing lower and lower in the evenings. Gemini will soon follow Orion to make way for the spring show of Leo, Virgo, Boötes, and Hercules. Before they disappear, the twins, who have been in a laid back position compared to an upright Orion, will stand on their own two feet at the last. Look for their heads, white Castor and orange Pollux in the west northwest.

Download a sky map here:

Planet Jupiter has been ascending higher and higher in the east and will soon be overhead in late evenings. Grab a pair of binoculars and steady them against a wall or porch post and try to detect one to four of the Galilean moons. Galileo saw them in 1610 using a very crude scope that he built himself.

Not being a particularly early riser, I have little to tell about the skies before sunrise, except that I do get occasional notes from those who do the early milking. Well, I read that Venus is now “up with the farmers,” and she should be an easy one to spot.

WOW Factors of the Universe

1. She Did It! Most of the “headliners” of astronomy historically were men. Edwin Hubble, for one, found that the distance to Andromeda, then thought to be a nebula, proved that it was a galaxy other than our own and this meant that the universe was vast. Fifteen years earlier, one Henrietta Leavitt, working at the Harvard Observatory, discovered a relation amongst the brightness and pulsation periods of a class of variables stars and their distance from us, and this paved the way for Hubble.

2. Our Moon’s Rival. For about a year, a small asteroid tagged 2006 RH120 orbited Earth before escaping. We may pick up yet another moon in 2029 as asteroid Apophis passes ten times closer to us than our Moon is. It is expected though to “Walk on By.”

3. Hot Stuff. Venus’s surface at 890 Fahrenheit is hot enough to melt lead, but the Sun’s core temperature is more than ten million degrees, and its matter is 13 times denser than lead.

4. The largest stars, UY Scuti for one, occupy a space that would extend out from our Sun to the orbit of Jupiter.

5. Anybody home? A teaspoonful of a man-made vacuum, at best, still would contain more than 2000 atoms, but in the emptiest regions in outer space, each atom enjoys, on average, ten million teaspoons of room in which to stretch out and read the newspaper.

6. Man of the Century. For the 20th century it was Einstein. In 1915 he envisioned a reality that could warp time and space, given enough mass and/or speed. Researchers have tested old Albert ever since, and in 2016, scientists were able to directly measure distortions in space-time when two black holes met and fused into one. Are the nominations open for this century?

source: Sky & Telescope’s 2017 Awesome Universe Calendar


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