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5 Sky Events This Week: Three-Planet Huddle, Lunar Wall

As the sun sets this week and the stars come out to play, the moon makes for a convenient guidepost in tracking down some cosmic showpieces. Check out our five sky events not to miss.

Moon Joins Regulus. Starting at dusk—about 30 minutes after your local sunset—on Friday and Saturday, check out the beautiful pairing of the moon below a bright white star high in the southern sky. Located 78 light-years away, Regulus is not only the brightest member of the constellation Leo, the lion,  but according to mythology it represents the heart of the king of the jungle.

constellation picture

The moon pairs up with the bright star Regulus in the constellation Leo this week. Illustration by A.Fazekas/Starry Night Software

 

Moon, Jupiter, and Venus Lineup. On Monday, May 13, look for three worlds huddling very low in the western evening sky. From highest to lowest: The crescent moon, Jupiter below right, and Venus closest to the horizon. With the goddess of love setting only an hour or so after your local sunset, timing is imperative if you want to catch both planets together. (See Venus pictures.)

If  weather allows, try watching the planetary duo day to day through the rest of this month as Venus slowly climbs higher, culminating in a close encounter with Jupiter.

Arcturus, the Red Giant. After nightfall on Wednesday, May 15, gaze up at the orange-hued Arcturus, the brightest star riding high in the southeastern sky. Lying within the kite-shaped northern constellation Bootes, the herdsman, this dying red giant star sits nearly 37 light years from Earth. As a sky-watching bonus, look about 30 degrees to its lower right for Saturn and bright star Spica—both are about 30 degrees away from Arcturus, which is equal to three fist widths held at arm’s length. (See Saturn pictures.)

It’s worth training even the smallest small backyard telescope on creamy colored Saturn, as it can bring those majestic rings into clear focus.

The Lunar Wall. The first quarter moon coming into view on Saturday night is the best time of the month to view in small telescopes an amazing lunar feature called the lunar wall. A fault line that stretches 75 miles (120 kilometers) in length and is more than 1,300 feet (400 meters deep) casts a distinct straight and dark line through your eyepiece. (Read more about lunar wonders.)

The Straight Wall, or Rupes Recta, cuts across the face of the moon and is visible in small telescopes this week. Photograph courtesy JAXA/SELENE

The Straight Wall, or Rupes Recta, cuts across the face of the moon and is visible in small telescopes this week. Photograph courtesy JAXA/SELENE

 

Mercury At Dusk. Just after your local sunset Sunday, try to spot the the innermost planet in the solar system, Mercury. With the tiny planet only ten degrees from the western horizon this evening, you will need to have a clear line of sight right down to your local horizon with no obstructions. Binoculars will make it much easier to spot the faint, star-like world in the bright sunset glare.

Over the course of the next couple of weeks, watch as Mercury slowly climbs higher in the sunset sky as it approaches Jupiter and Venus.

 

Tell us—what cool sky phenomena have you seen lately?

Comments

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  2. Hannah
    Broomfield, CO
    June 18, 2013, 12:50 pm

    After a rainstorm, the entire Starbucks store and I saw a “quadruple rainbow”. It made us wonder if we were imagining things, but 4 rainbows could be clearly seen! Very cool.

  3. Juan Antonio CONTRERAS GONZALEZ
    Canary Island
    May 16, 2013, 8:55 pm

    Acontecimientos espaciales de esta naturaleza son difíciles de apreciar y por tanto de gran valor para los interesados en Astronomía.

  4. joseph barrett
    Canada
    May 16, 2013, 4:34 pm

    A few years ago I was looking up at the night sky, watching what looked like a jet flying very high and relatively fast, as seen on previous nights, when it collided it was a rock hitting another rock, red cloud and sound of two rocks colliding.

  5. joseph barrett
    Canada
    May 16, 2013, 4:24 pm

    H402 Ontario, 10 years ago, returning from driving route, the night sky lit up brighter than the sun, I thought it must be an army flare, I kept myr speed at 100 km/h for about 5 minutes and to my left from the cab a metiorite about the size of a softball landed in.the field about 3 feet on the other side of the fence outside of H402.

  6. quentin
    france
    May 15, 2013, 7:47 am

    Last week , I saw something really interesting, it was like “flying stars” , and when the “thing” passed above my house , it became brigther and make some kind of pulsation, like “hello we’re there!”…
    And I saw this things a copple days later with friend…they were totally amazed !

  7. Susan Cahalane
    NJ
    May 15, 2013, 4:55 am

    I saw a sun halo yesterday – I’ve never seen one before! I posted a pic on my Science for Kids Blog (I’m a science teacher)-http://scienceforkidsblog.blogspot.com/2013/05/rainbow-around-sun.html

  8. zhao bing
    peking
    May 15, 2013, 4:14 am

    i like the lunar wall , that would be wonderful if i can afford a great telescope

  9. Trodrigz
    Evansville, Indiana, USA.
    May 14, 2013, 10:36 pm

    I Love space pics. It tells me that we humans will some day will travel the universe.

  10. Alex Woodward
    May 14, 2013, 11:14 am

    I cannot wait to see Leo the lion on May 18!!! this is so exciting!

  11. Bardo
    Manila, Philippines
    May 14, 2013, 4:58 am

    Recently, while watching the sky, some friends and I saw stars “pop” (like a soundless spark of light) and disappear. We were with some astronomer friends and they didn’t know what to make of what we described.