You’ll find the bright moon near the planet Saturn on the evening of May 22, 2013, and the star Spica to the west (right) of the moon and Saturn. Although both Saturn and Spica shine brightly, they’ll be harder than usual to see tonight because of the lunar glare. Can you see them? Binoculars might help, if you have them.
The moon is in a waxing gibbous phase. It’s getting big in the sky, and will turn full on the night of May 24/25. In the Northern hemisphere, we often call this particular full moon the Flower Moon, Rose Moon or Strawberry Moon. The full moon will barely clip the Earth’s penumbral shadow, but this eclipse will be so shallow and faint that’ll be virtually impossible to observe.
Saturn, the sixth planet outward from the sun, will shine in front of the constellation Virgo until passing out of Virgo and into the constellation Libra in late August/early September 2013. Blue-white Spica, the brightest star in Virgo, contrasts beautifully with golden Saturn, the most distant world that you can easily see with the unaided eye.
When the moon drops out of the early evening sky toward the end of the month, be sure to savor the beauty of these colorful celestial gems in the darkness of night.
Earth passed between Saturn and the sun on April 28 of 2013. That was Saturn’s yearly opposition, and it means that we’re farther from Saturn now than we were several weeks ago. We’re now racing ahead of Saturn in Earth’s smaller, faster orbit around the sun. So Saturn is steadily appearing dimmer on our sky’s dome, and it’s slowly but surely spending less time in the sky each night. Presently, Saturn sets just before the onset of morning dawn. However, by the time that August rolls around, Saturn will set around midnight.
Saturn, like all planets, will be shining with a steadier light than the twinkling stars. In contrast to the moon, Saturn moves at a snail’s pace in front the constellations of the Zodiac. By tomorrow night, the moon will have moved onward, passing through the constellation Libra at this time tomorrow, on May 23.
Bottom line: Will you be able to see the planet Saturn and the star Spica in the glare of the waxing gibbous moon tonight (May 22, 2013)?