The star Spica and the planet Saturn appear in the southeast at nightfall, and then move westward across the sky during the night.
Although you’ll always find the star Spica in the same place in the sky on May evenings every year, Saturn’s proximity to Spica is special to this year. At present, Saturn shines in front of the constellation Virgo, just west of the Libra/Virgo border. On this date in 2014, Saturn will in the middle of the constellation Libra.
Yesterday we talked about learning to “follow the arc” to the star Arcturus in the constellation Bootes. You just follow the curve in the Big Dipper’s handle until you see this orange star.
Tonight, let the Big Dipper introduce you to another bright star. This star is Spica in the constellation Virgo the Maiden. You can follow the arc to Arcturus AND drive a spike or, as some say, speed on to Spica.
Now is the perfect time to look outside in the evening and learn a phrase useful to sky watchers. The phrase is: follow the arc to Arcturus.
First locate the Big Dipper asterism in the northeastern sky. Then draw an imaginary line following the curve in the Dipper’s handle until you come to a bright orange star. This star is Arcturus in the constellation Bootes, known in skylore as the bear guard.
Blood Falls seeping into Lake Bonney. A tent can be seen in the lower left for size comparison. Photo from the United States Antarctic Program Photo Library.
In 1911, Australian explorer and geologist Griffith Taylor discovered a strange glacial feature in Antarctica, which is now known as Blood Falls. It’s a bright red waterfall, nearly five stories high, seeping through a crack in Taylor Glacier, which flows into Antarctica’s Lake Bonney. Geologists first believed that the color of the water came from algae, but today the red color is known to be caused by microbes living off sulfur and iron in the oxygen-free water trapped beneath the ice for nearly 2 million years.
The star Deneb – visible by mid-evening every May – is one of the most distant of the bright stars. When you gaze at this star, you are gazing across a great distance of space. The exact distance to Deneb is not known for certain, with estimates ranging from about 1,425 light-years to perhaps as much as 7,000 light-years.
As soon as darkness falls on May 17, 2013, look for the moon – at first quarter phase today – close to a bright star, Regulus. Sparkling blue-white Regulus is the brightest star in the constellation Leo the Lion. It represents the the Lion’s beating heart. You can also see some planets tonight, and every night in May. Jupiter and Venus are now in the west after sunset, heading for an exciting planetary trio with Mercury later this month. The moon is now sweeping across the evening sky from night to night, heading for the star Spica and then the ringed planet Saturn later this month.
Golden Saturn as seen by the Voyager 2 spacecraft in 1980
The best time to see the planet Saturn in 2013 is now! Saturn will be out nearly all night for most of May. Why is Saturn so good to view this month? The reason is that we passed between Saturn and the sun in late April. At that time, Saturn was opposite the sun as seen from Earth. Now Earth has moved on slightly in its orbit, so that Saturn appears in our eastern sky as soon as darkness falls. How can you spot Saturn? Tips and charts inside.
On Wednesday (May 15, 2013), severe storms pushed through parts of northern and eastern Texas, causing significant damage and destroying many homes across the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Sixteen tornadoes have been confirmed by the National Weather Service (NWS) in Fort Worth, Texas. But that number could change as the NWS gathers more information regarding the damage that took place. This post includes some of the preliminary findings released by the NWS and shows some of the incredible damage that took place on the evening of May 15, 2013.
Here’s a time-lapse video taken taken from the bridge of a research icebreaker as the ship carves forward through the ice of Antarctica’s Ross Sea. It’s two months of sequences, condensed into less than five minutes. Enjoy the penguin ending …