It's shaping up to be a good weekend for sidewalk astronomy. Jane and I
will be in Old Town Pasadena tonight, and Old Town Monrovia tomorrow night.
May is the last month this year for good Saturn observations, and this
weekend is the last scheduled sidewalk excursion for the Old Town
Astronomers. This is your last chance for a good look at Saturn for a
while. Every evening Saturn appears a bit lower in the west as the
Earth swings around the Sun in its orbit. In a couple months we'll
begin seeing Saturn again just before dawn, and it will spend several
months visible in the early morning sky -- not a time when we're on a
sidewalk with telescopes. :)
Luckily the Earth keeps revolving around the Sun, and we'll catch up to
Saturn again early in 2006. Saturn requires about 30 years to orbit the
Sun, so it won't have moved a whole lot in the year we take for our orbit.
That's not the end of the planets for 2005 though! Jupiter will
continue putting on a great show for the next few months in the early
evening. Tonight Jupiter's Great Red Spot may be visible in the early
part of the evening. Seeing the giant storm is difficult, because the
coloring is very subtle. But if the atmospheric turbulence ("seeing")
is still, you just might see the eye-shaped disturbance.
Meanwhile Venus is slowly climbing higher in the evening sky, and for
the rest of the year it will be the brilliant evening star in the west
after sunset. Next month the sky will have two very bright "stars,"
Venus in the west, and Jupiter high in the southeast.
The six-day-old crescent Moon will be putting on a great show all
weekend. If you look at the Moon tonight, the brightest star nearby is
actually the planet Saturn. Notice on Saturday night how far the Moon
has moved away from Saturn, and bingo, you just noticed the Moon's orbit
around the Earth. :)
Later this year, shortly after Halloween, we'll be looking forward to
catching up with Mars, as the Earth does every 27-months. We'll be
planning some special viewing times for that special occasion.
Old Town Astronomers: http://www.otastro.org