Above, one of the Expedition 36 crew members aboard the Earth-orbiting International Space Station on July 11, 2013 captured this high oblique view of Lake Michigan (left) and Lake Huron and much of the state of Michigan in between.
Meteor Shower and Much More for May Viewing
BY JONATHAN TRUAX, ASTRONOMER, MUSKEGON COMMUNITY COLLEGE'S CARR-FLES PLANETARIUM
This month, become a sky watcher; see a meteor shower, enjoy views of bright stars, watch the moon move among the stars, learn some constellations, and enjoy three evening planets.
In May, Mars is a challenging planet visible low in the evening sky. To find Mars look low in the west northwest about 40 minutes to an hour after sunset. Mars currently shines east of the bright orange star Aldebaran in Taurus the Bull. The waxing crescent moon is near Mars the nights of May 6 through 8.
This month Jupiter becomes an evening planet rising in the southeast at sunset. Locate a very bright white “star” east of the stars forming the head of Scorpius the Scorpion. The waning moon is very near Jupiter the nights of May 19 and 20.
Rising shortly after midnight local time, locate Saturn as a bright yellow-white “star” just a little dimmer than Jupiter, and east of the “teapot” grouping of stars forming Sagittarius the Archer. The waning gibbous moon is very close to Saturn on the nights of May 22 and 23.
The MCC Carr-Fles Planetarium presents free of charge “Faster than Light! The Dream of Interstellar Flight” Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7:00 p.m., May 2, and May 21 through June 13, 2019. The impulse to strike out into the unknown, to see what’s over the horizon is as old as humanity. Scientists now believe that our galaxy is filled with solar systems, including up to 9 billion Sun-like stars with planets similar to Earth. Astronomers are racing to find habitable worlds, but if we find one, how will we ever get there? Narrated by Sean Bean, “Faster Than Light! The Dream of Interstellar Flight” will dazzle audiences with virtual rides aboard spacecraft of the future. The program will be followed by a brief tour of the current night sky, using the planetarium.
A waxing crescent moon will shine near the two stars Castor and Pollux of Gemini the twins the night of May 9. The waxing gibbous moon is near the bright star Regulus the nights of the 11th and 12th. Look for this month’s Full moon north of the bright red star Antares on the night of the 18th.
The annual Aquariid meteor shower reaches peak activity on the mornings of May 5 and 6. Sky watchers observing a couple hours before dawn can expect to see up to 40 meteors per hour radiating from the southeast on those two mornings. This shower occurs as the Earth crosses the orbit of Halley’s Comet and sweeps up dusty debris.
As darkness falls after sunset this month, locate the bright yellow star Capella of Auriga, the charioteer, high in the northwest. The winter constellation of Orion can be seen very low in the west, marked by three stars in a row, the famous “belt” of Orion, just above the horizon. Use the “belt” stars pointing toward the southeast, to locate the bright blue-white star Sirius the brightest star in the Heavens. The bright white star Procyon is high in the west.
Looking high in the north, nearly overhead, locate the “Big Dipper” formed by the stars of Ursa Major. Low on the northern horizon; find a “W” forming the stars of Cassiopeia. High in the eastern sky nearly overhead, locate Arcturus of Bootes, the brightest star of summer. Low in the southeast is the bright blue star Spica of Virgo the Virgin. Very low in the northeast the bright summer star Vega is rising.
The MCC Carr-Fles Planetarium presents free of charge “Faster than Light! The Dream of Interstellar Flight” Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7:00 p.m., May 2, and May 21 through June 13, 2019. Visit the MCC Carr-Fles Planetarium website for upcoming events and call (231) 777-0289 for sky show information. Carr-Fles Planetarium is located on the Muskegon Community College campus in Room 135. Thanks to the generosity of the Reach for the Stars campaign donors, you can now experience Carr-Fles Planetarium with state-of-the-art digital projection, sound and lighting systems; all-new library of shows; and modern theater seating and domed ceiling.