|May’s Night Sky|
Throughout May, giant Jupiter is slipping from view in the west after sunset, even as Saturn is rising higher each night in the east. But the King of Planets has one final dance with Venus and Mercury before making its exit.
Key Skywatching Dates
May 2 Last-quarter Moon (7:14 a.m. EDT)
May 5 Eta Aquarid meteor shower peaks (more info below)
May 10 Annular solar eclipse (not visible from Boston)
May 18 Astronomy Day at the Clay Center! (more info below)
May 18 First-quarter Moon (12:35 a.m. EDT)
May 23 Moon shines with Saturn to its left and star Spica to its right
May 25 Full Moon (12:25 a.m. EDT; more info below)
May 24-29 Planet trio in west at dusk (more info below)
May 25 Penumbral lunar eclipse (not visible from Boston)
May 26 Moon at perigee (closest to Earth); large tides expected
May 31 Last-quarter Moon (2:58 p.m. EDT)
Everyone loves to see meteors (“shooting stars”), and we all lived in Australia this month’s Eta Aquarid meteor shower would be a good one. But the celestial geometry works against us this far north, and hardly any of these meteors will be observable when the shower peaks before dawn on May 5th.
This month will be your absolute last chance to see Jupiter before it dips from view in the evening sky. Look for the King of Planets low in the west as soon as twilight starts to darken. In early May it’s above the horizon by about twice the width of your fist at arm’s length, but by Memorial Day you’ll have a tough time spotting it at all.
Meanwhile, the planets Venus and Mercury are rising up from below Jupiter. On the 19th, the three planets form a diagonal line (Jupiter is at upper left). From May 24th to 29th, all three shift positions from night to night, and on the 28th Venus and Jupiter are just 1° apart (the width of your outstretched fingertip). To see this celestial dance you’ll need a clear shot at the western horizon. Start looking about 30 minutes after sunset. Binoculars will help.
Across the evening sky in the east, Saturn is making its entrance into the evening sky. On April 28th it was at opposition (opposite the Sun in the sky), rising in the east at sunset and staying up all night long. There are two bright stars in Saturn’s general vicinity. These three form a big narrow triangle about three fists long. Its pointy top, at upper left, is the bright star Arcturus. The triangle’s other two corners are at lower right, with Saturn closest to the horizon and the blue-white star Spica about 1½ fists to its upper right.
Look overhead to see the Big Dipper. Its curved handle is bent upward and its four-sided bowl looks overturned. Even though it’s so well known, the Big Dipper isn’t truly a constellation. It’s what astronomers call an asterism, which is simply any group of stars that make a pattern. The dipper is part of a larger constellation called Ursa Major, the Big Bear. The stars in the Dipper’s handle serve as the bear’s tail, the bowl marks its back, and its head is off to the left.
Come to the Clay Center on Saturday, May 18th, to celebrate Astronomy Day — the largest gathering of the cosmically curious in Greater Boston. This family-friendly event, which is free to the public, begins at 4 pm with outdoor activities and runs until the evening’s stargazing ends at 10 p.m. The Clay Center’s Astronomy Day celebration features a wide range of astronomy- and space-themed activities for all ages. Last year more than 2,300 visitors came to take part in the excitement of astronomical discovery. For more information click here.
Coming up in June: the summer solstice!
|One-in-a-Million Astronomical Weekend for Clay Center|
It was the "Super Bowl of Science," a once-a-century meteor explosion over Russia followed shortly by a once-a-decade passing of a large asteroid by Earth. Though completely unrelated, these incredibly rare events had at least one thing in common: the Clay Center Observatory at Dexter and Southfield. Students Nick Weber, Sam Lapides, and Nick Veo, ably assisted by Observatory Director Ron Dantowitz and researcher Marek Kozubal, set up a live, high-definition video feed of the near-miss asteroid that was viewed more than 500,000 times by armchair astronomers worldwide; CNN also requested use of the feed worldwide for all its networks. The students were interviewed by local television stations and were prominently featured, along with Mr. Dantowitz, on channels 4,5, 7, and NECN and in the Boston Globe. The Clay Center was also used as a resource for reporters inquiring about the stunning meteor strike in Russia.
|Student Team Provides Real-Time Video of Asteroid Toutatis|
December 11, 2012 — Press Release
- An asteroid that some day might threaten Earth is passing relatively close by on the night of December 11–12, and its gliding path among the stars will be tracked by a team of high-school students at the Clay Center Observatory in Brookline, Massachusetts.
Weather permitting, real-time high-definition video from the observatory’s 25-inch-diameter telescope will be available from 5 p.m. until 11 p.m. (EST) on December 11th and can be freely accessed via the observatory’s Ustream channel