ASTRONOMY GUIDE TO THE NIGHT SKY – May 2022

Astronomy

ASTRONOMY GUIDE TO THE NIGHT SKY – May 2022

With the Newbury Astronomical Society

The chart above shows the night sky at 21:00 on 15th May 2022

Click on the chart to enlarge and click to the side of the chart to close

The chart above shows the night sky looking south at about 22:00 BST on 15th May.  West is to the right and east to the left.  The point in the sky directly overhead is known as the Zenith and is shown (in red) at the upper centre of the chart.  The curved brown line across the sky at the bottom is the Ecliptic or Zodiac.  This is the imaginary line along which the Sun, Moon and planets appear to move across the sky.  The brightest stars often appear to form a group or recognisable pattern; we call these ‘Constellations’.

Constellations through which the ecliptic passes this month are: Aries (the Ram), Taurus (the Bull), Gemini (the Twins), Cancer (the Crab), Leo (the Lion), Virgo (the Virgin) and Libra (the Scales) just coming into view.

The constellation of Gemini (the Twins) can be seen in the early evening in the west.  The two brightest stars in Gemini are Castor and Pollux and they are named after mythological twins.  To the north west of Gemini is the odd pentagon shape of Auriga (the Charioteer).  Dominating Auriga is the brilliant white star Capella which was almost directly overhead but now moving to the west.  For those with a telescope there is a line of lovely open clusters to search out in Taurus and Auriga.  These are M35 in Taurus and M36, M37 and M38 in Auriga.

In the west the winter constellation of Orion (the Hunter) is disappearing over the horizon but one of Orion’s Hunting Dogs Procyon (the little dog) can still be seen in the south west.  So if a bright star is seen in the south west this will be Procyon Orion’s Little Dog.

To the east (left) of Gemini is the rather indistinct constellation of Cancer (the Crab).  The stars of Cancer are quite faint and can be difficult to discern especially in a light polluted sky.  It is really worth searching out Cancer using binoculars or a telescope to see the Open Cluster M44 (the Beehive Cluster).  M44 is older and further away than M45 (the Seven Sisters) so is fainter than M45 but still looks lovely.  It has a group of stars that resemble an old traditional conical straw Beehive with bees around it.

The constellation of Leo (the Lion) follows Cancer along the Ecliptic.  It does actually look a little like a lion or the Sphinx in Egypt.  Around and between Leo and the neighboring constellations of Coma Berenices and Virgo is a cluster of galaxies.  Our galaxy and our local group of galaxies are members of this larger group of galaxies called the Virgo Cluster (see the April magazine).  A medium sized telescope (150mm to 200mm) and a dark sky is required to see these faint objects.

The constellation of Virgo (the Virgin) can be seen at the lower east (left) of the chart above.  To the north (above) and between Virgo and Leo is the fainter constellation of Coma Berenices (the hair of Berenices).

To the north of Virgo is the constellation of Boötes with its bright orange coloured star called Arctaurus.  The other stars in Boötes are fainter and form the shape of an old fashioned diamond shaped kite with Arctaurus located where the string of the tail would be attached.

Arctaurus is one of just a few stars that do actually appear to be coloured.  Arctaurus is noticeably orange to the ‘naked eye’ and even more so when using binoculars or a telescope.  It is actually a star with a mass similar to our Sun but is older at 7 billion years (our Sun is 4.3 billion years old).  Arctaurus is approaching the end of its life and has developed into a Red Giant.

Where to find the planets this month

All the planets, except Uranus and Mercury are in the early morning eastern sky.

Mercury will be moving into Inferior conjunction with the Sun on 22st May.

Venus is very bright in the eastern sky before sunrise and was at its greatest westerly elongation (furthest from the Sun) on 20th March so it is now moving back towards the Sun.

Mars is still close to the Sun and appears very small as it is on the other side of the Sun.

Jupiter was in conjunction on 5th March so is now in the eastern sky before sunrise.

Saturn was in conjunction on 4th February and is now in the eastern sky before sunrise.

Uranus will be in conjunction with the Sun on 5th May so will not be observable.

Neptune was in conjunction on 15th March so is now in the eastern sky before sunrise.

Follow this link to see the full ‘Monthly What’s Up’ guide to the night sky:

http://naasbeginners.co.uk/Whats_up/2021_2022/May2022.htm

To see a full version of this article and a guide to the night sky with charts, read the Newbury Astronomical Society (NAS) – Monthly Magazines for Beginners on the Beginners website at: www.naasbeginners.co.uk.

The next Meeting of the Newbury Astronomical Society – Beginners Section will be a ‘face to face’ meeting at Stockcross Village Hall on Wednesday 18th May starting at 19:00 until 21:00.

However virtual meetings will relayed on-line using Zoom.  Please check on the Beginners website above for the latest information.

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